With Deirde Strunk
For anyone interested in the topic of leadership, please check out my series on " Good Leadership." My first interview of this series is with Deirdre Strunk who is Vice President ‑ Spa, Fitness and Beauty at Canyon Ranch Spa Club in Las Vegas. Hope you enjoy...
Me: What is your definition of leadership?
Deirdre: Good question. Do you mean leadership or a good leader?
Me: Either is good. We can go with what makes a good leader in your opinion?
Deirdre: A good leader is someone who can look at their team and work with each individual's strengths, and not look to what is weak. I like to foster those things people are good at. The things an individual is not good at, I do not try and change or focus on weaknesses . Whatever contribution each person makes is cared about and valued and it is all about people really. Everyone on a team is different, and we all have uniqueness. I want individuals who are a good fit for the team, and not look to what is a good fit for me.
Obvious why I wanted to interview Deirdre for this leadership series. She is a true leader. She walks her talk, loves people, and cares deeply about the individuals on her team. Deirdre clearly knows how to build a successful team, based on individual personalities, talents, and what is complimentary to the whole.
Me: So the idea that we are "better together" is clearly something good leaders understand. One of Simon Sinek's book is titled "Better Together." When I reached out to a lot of my clients within the hospitality industry, as well as other industries asking them what leadership podcasts they listen to, or leadership books they are reading, etc... Simon's name came up repeatedly. He was a a speaker at one of our ISPA conferences years ago. Why do you think his name comes up so much, in conversations around leadership?
Deirdre: Simon is great. He talks a lot about "Leaders Eat Last," and taking care of people. Lots of individuals under a leadership, do not feel taken care of. He also talks a lot about "The Why." I do what I do because of people. A job is a job; I believe that a job brings you the people that are meant for you. I invest in my people and if some have stress at home, I want work to be their safe place. Leaders are happy to have a team, and support their team. A team is not just numbers of people. Another great leader and speaker, who was at an ISPA conference as well, is Marcus Buckingham. I am reading one of his books now- "The Nine Lies About Work". Also, check out his "Stand Out 2.0 - Access Your Strengths, Find Your Edge" - great stuff.
I agree with Deirdre 100%. A job brings you the people that are meant for you. Anyone who is not familiar with Simon Sinek, should check out his books and his work. I am definitely going to check out Marcus Buckingham's books.
Me: So when I asked you what leadership podcasts you listen to, or leadership books you think are good, you sent me info on Stan Tatkin's book, "Your Brain on Love, the Neurobiology of Healthy Relationships." So I never heard of him, or this book, but a recommendation from you, I thought, I have to read/listen to on audible. First, thanks for this, as I found this to be highly informative and I would recommend this as well to anyone. He talks a lot about relationships, and I was fascinated how he categories individuals into waves, islands, and anchors. In understanding his concepts, have you thought about this pertaining to team building?
Deirdre: Yes, I found his explanation of this fascinating as well. So, yes, in understanding that individuals are unique; and that once you really know people and care about them deeply, can see what is strong about them, and what is natural to them, this helps in managing teams. When I can put two people together who may be opposite, I can see how each of their strengths, and weaknesses can become complementary. This helps everyone, since we foster the best in each person, and also this results in getting the best out of them as part of a team.
I am so grateful Deirdre recommended this book. I rarely recommend books to others, but, in my opinion, this is a great read for anyone interested in people; valuing, growing, and improving relationships - personally and professionally.
Me: So let's talk about the traits of empathy and compassion. There is all this talk about empathy and compassion, these are the new "catch" words like "organic" and "natural" were in our industry many years ago. What is your definition of empathy? and what is your definition of compassion?
Deirdre: Yes, indeed, there does seem to be these "catch words" very similar to the "natural and organic." For me, empathy and compassion are basically loving people and caring deeply for them as individuals first. Everyone on my team I am invested in them as people. I think employee evaluations are not effective for team members to get information to do their jobs once a year. I think any good leader or good manager is talking to their team members on an ongoing basis and should be in constant communication with them so they are never surprised by what is in the evaluation. I meet regularly with everyone on my team, and we talk about everything. I want their work to be a "safe" place for them to be themselves, and love coming to work. Many have issues at home, etc.. and I want their work to be a place for them to come that they enjoy, love, and feel appreciated.
Most often these "catch" phrases that people spew around, lose their meaning, or become misunderstood. When someone genuinely cares about another, and can be present for them, and want the best for them, people feel that. It is more energetic in nature. I am not sure words can really capture how one feels on a deep level. Those who are so blessed to be around good and strong leaders, feel that they are deeply cared for.
Me: Why do you think we live in a time where there are so few good leaders? and good leadership? in homes, companies, governments, etc..?
Deirdre: Probably because leadership is hard, and good leaders work really hard at it. One has to genuinely care about people, and love people.
I agree with Deirdre. Good leaders work really hard, and they have love in their heart, and genuinely care about others. This goes to good leadership within a family, an organization, a nation, etc... love is at the core, and a sincere unconditional caring for the good for all.
Me: So do you think good leaders are born? or are they "made?"
Deirdre: They are born. I was always the gal in charge, even as a kid. I put teams together in softball; leadership comes natural to me. I wake up and I am ready to go.
It is my true belief that looking at one's childhood, and what one was gifted at, talented at, and found joy doing- that is the "blueprint" for finding and growing one's "why." Unfortunately, many are "programed" out of their natural gifts and talents, by parents, teachers, society , culture, and people end up pursuing things that are not really "meant" for them. Good leaders are invested in other's gifts and talents, and helping an individual reach their highest potential. Good leaders help other's to flourish, and empower them to be the best versions of themselves. Good and great leaders like Deirdre, understand this on a deep level. We are all unique, and have individual gifts and talents to share with others.
Thanks so much Deirdre for your time and sharing your amazing perspectives. You are such a great leader, and you are very appreciated by so many!!!