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At Glion, it’s our duty to equip students with the knowledge and expertise to lead in luxury sectors across hospitality and beyond. But how do we, as an industry, inspire these future leaders? How do we create visionaries that can anticipate the demands of a new generation – and go beyond them? That was up for debate at the latest Art of Luxury Leadership conference.

On October 18, hospitality leaders, industry partners and students met at Hotel Lutetia in Paris to tackle the key questions facing the luxury sector. From attracting Generation Z and Millennial talent, to technology, data and ‘inclusive luxury’ – opinions, strategies and predictions were shared.

An evening of insight

As well as panel discussions and keynote speeches, the conference is an opportunity for Glion students and faculty to meet industry leaders in luxury and gain real-world insight. One such leader was Jean-Pierre Soutric, VP Strategic Partnership at Grand Luxury Group.

Jean-Pierre has spent an entire lifetime in the hospitality business, from growing up in his parent’s hotel, to leadership positions with Accor, Intercontinental Hotels and Four Seasons. Now heading-up strategic partnerships at Grand Luxury Group, he took time out from the conference to share his thoughts on the industry, leadership and the future.

Jean-Pierre Soutric answers our questions

Topic: The art of luxury leadership

Real luxury needs real leaders. From dealing with savvier consumers and coping with the demands of digital, to creating bespoke experiences and going green, the next generation of leaders will deal with challenges that didn’t even exist a decade ago.

So, how do we inspire our future leaders? How do we cultivate leadership, challenge it and push it further?

“Leadership is a gift, and across ages all leaders have always looked at an inspiring individual from whom they would build their very own style to lead others. Tomorrow’s leaders are very much observing how the current model works. But they have new tools at hand which for some represent a chance to accelerate their own development and therefore receive responsibilities earlier.”

“That said, a solid base of general knowledge, culture, and a good command of languages will always be indispensable and so will be experience. Tomorrow’s leaders will need to distance themselves from quick/ simplistic algorithms and more importantly remember to observe (oneself) and listen (to others).”

In short, if we are exemplary with our replacement today and good at transmission, chances are they will excel at leading – of course through a whole new range of modern communication tools.

How do we create leaders ready to anticipate the demands of a new generation – and go beyond them?

“As always through careful and supportive listening. In the luxury world we are far too brand and logo centric. Product rules. Customers are expected to adapt to product and services and accept/ support the brand’s values. That said there is a huge difference with the past. The customer has a voice today and can comment on Google and Social Media in total freedom. This is quite a revolution.”

But how many organisations are really paying attention? That is the question for the new generation of leaders who are 100% Gafa-compatible.

How are the customers changing?

“Well you may receive tons of answers to this question. There are some solid and sustainable trends that everyone is capable of observing today, e.g. respect of fragile ecosystems, CSR opportunities, unacceptable geo-politics, respect of culture etc. I believe in those as it’s also a person concern.”

“I think that a white sandy beach holiday is very much a yesterday thing, and culture is the true driver for tomorrow – but there is a huge threat to this, it’s called mass tourism who ignore culture and also obscurantism and intolerance (think of what happened to the site of Palmyra in Syria or the Budda’s in Afghanistan).”

How is the world changing?

Look around and try to pause (good luck!).

What are the biggest shifts in hospitality?

Hotel décor: go back to the essential.
Check-in, check-out’s: must disappear.
Room amenities: sanctuaries the guestroom, get rid of desks and open the windows please!
Food: fine dining only if I want, make it simple, good and organic.

What makes a leader a real leader?

INSPIRATION: true leaders show a path and inspire many (across race, religion, age, generation, centuries). I have my very short list: De-Gaulle, Napoléon, Mandela, Simone Veil, Sister Emmanuelle, Isadore Sharp and … Dad.

What skills and values define the success of a leader?

Integrity, empathy, intelligence, capacity to support and recognize, enthusiasm, optimism, energy.

What is different from ten years ago and what will happen in the next ten years?

“Ten years ago, it was all about the birth and development of the digital tools, tomorrow it will be all about the artificial intelligence, but I’m not even sure it will be in ten years! Chances are it is happening as we speak but, as in recent past, we do not know really what will it encompass.”

Thank you to Jean-Pierre for taking the time to share his insight. For more knowledge and opinions on luxury leadership, you can read quotes from the panel discussion and keynote speeches, or watch the videos covering some of our previous conferences such as the Art of Luxury Leadership conference in Geneva.

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About the author

Glion Institute of Higher Education
Glion Institute of Higher Education is a private Swiss institution offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees in hospitality, luxury and event management to an international student body across three campuses in Switzerland and London, UK.
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