Aaron Gowell, co-founder and CEO, SilverRail Technologies
"Culturally, we're over‐focused on 'rock star' leaders."
Quote from Aaron Gowell, co-founder and CEO of SilverRail Technologies, in a preview for Phocuswright Europe this week.
Each Friday, PhocusWire dissects and debates an industry trend or new development covered on our site that week.
If there is an industry that somehow seems to think having, in Aaron Gowell's words, "rock star leaders", is a benefit, then it's travel.
Whether this is by accident or design is up for debate, but the travel, tourism and hospitality sector has some colorful characters at the top of the pile.
There is nothing wrong with charismatic leaders, of course.
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It's a tough business and a boss with the right pedigree, strategy, personality and drive can be an enormous inspiration to their comrades coming along for the ride.
But Gowell's point is an important one. There is often a fixation on figures who appear sometimes to be wishing they were fronting a globally recognized, successful musical outfit... rather than running a business.
That arrogance (for want of a better word) then sometimes filters down into the culture of an organization.
And, yet, for all the grandstanding, are they making things better or - again in Gowell's words - "moving the needle?"
This is difficult to determine, not least when it is equally difficult to understand how much influence a person has over the operational parts of company, especially when they are surrounded by lieutenants who are terrific leaders in their own right.
There is, some might argue, a decent example of how a change at the top can help overhaul a business and the culture.
A rather large company in the sector was led by what many may have considered a "rock star", who created a culture that embellished that style.
It worked in terms of raising its profile, attracting capital and many other elements. But it didn't work for many other reasons - some of a very unsavory nature.
That person was eventually ousted and the company is now about to enjoy a successful listing on the public financial markets.
The replacement at the top was extremely well-known but not a "rock star" in any sense of the phrase.
The company may well have got its IPO exit under the previous leadership but most would probably agree that the current leader is perhaps more likened to the talented tenor in a large choir, rather than the posturing, guitar-wielding figure standing on the loudspeakers.
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