The Customer Confidential Podcast

Do You Want to Lead or Just Manage?

From the depths of the podcast archives, we’ve pulled a powerful leadership tip from Horst Schulze, cofounder of Ritz-Carlton and founder of the Capella Hotel Group.


Do You Want to Lead or Just Manage?

One of the most important, and difficult, roles of any leadership team is to instill in the workforce a culture and sense of purpose. In the course of my career, I’ve seen some leaders who were really good at that and, well, many who struggled. Back in 2014, I did a podcast interview that put this challenge in simple, stark terms that have stayed fresh in my memory.

That’s largely thanks to my guest at the time, the inimitable Horst Schulze, cofounder of Ritz-Carlton and founder of the Capella Hotel Group. If you heard him on our most recent episode, you’re probably well aware of his critique of a certain style of management. 

“Orders and directions don’t work,” he told me. A better approach is “saying, ‘Hey, we want to improve that . . . and in fact, you can improve it. You.’” (The emphasis is his, as you’ll hear in the episode.)

What I love about talking to Horst is, on the one hand, he makes his preferred style of management sound so blindingly obvious. “What’s so difficult about that?” he asks. What’s funny is Horst also goes on to tell me precisely what is so difficult about that. He gets to the heart of why someone would choose to be a manager, even when they’d prefer to be a leader.


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In his view, it comes down to organizational pressures, the daily temptation to give a direct order here, or specify exactly how you want someone to do something there, until, before you know it, your team has lost all sense of purpose and motive.

Understanding these pressures, and continually resisting them—that is the true stuff of leadership, according to Horst. In this special episode from the podcast archives, he describes the daily choice every manager faces: to lead or not to lead?

You can listen to this lightly edited excerpt of my conversation with Horst on iTunes, Stitcher, or your podcast provider of choice. The episode is also available through the audio player below.

If you can’t get enough of Horst, listen to our full interview, which aired on episode 20 of the Net Promoter System Podcast:

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