The best hotels are magical havens of comfort and familiarity.
They welcome longtime guests as returning family, and they treat new visitors like eagerly awaited dignitaries.
These sanctuaries are like a favorite sweater or an elegant sport shirt, in which the spools of wool, cashmere and Egyptian cotton relax against the skin for Christmastime warmth or outdoor airiness.
For each article of clothing, for every season (at the Four Seasons®, more about anon), there is a mahogany wardrobe or a dresser with lacquered drawers; each is a set piece from the home of our dreams, be it an urban wonderland of cloud-like tufts of snow, or an atoll in the South Pacific, where intrepid explorers have created a grand resort for the world to discover.
There, beneath the seemingly inaudible revolutions of a large ceiling fan and amidst the handcrafted Talavera tile flooring, the wicker chairs with their plush seat cushions, the cherry wood vestibule and the slippered foot traffic of discreet bellmen – all of it is a fantasy made real.
Few hotels capture this magic so beautifully, and even fewer properties encapsulate the ideals about branding so perfectly, as the Four Seasons®.
This magic – the very existence of a Magic Kingdom, with its golden spires, decorative turrets, drawbridge and nightly fireworks; the incandescent display of these red, orange, yellow and white stars – inspires the magic within the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World® Resort.
A kindred spirit on behalf of this magic and adventure, a leader other executives should emulate because of his infectious authenticity, is Thomas Steinhauer.
The Regional Vice President and General Manager of the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World® Resort, Mr. Steinhauer has the intelligence and wisdom a great brand requires.
And, as he explains in this broadcast about the virtues of personalized service and the distinctive qualities that define a company of this stature, details are the essence of a high-end organization.
That is, everything that makes a brand spectacular, from the fivefold, fan-shaped pattern of a dinner napkin and the aromatic pouring of morning coffee to the curtsy and smile of a restaurant hostess and the salutation from a gardener; in this exchange of pleasantries, where a groundskeeper prunes and affectionately tends to verdant hedge groves and reclining palm trees, there is magic.
And what grounds, indeed! Twenty-six sprawling acres of serenity, where families can enjoy themselves, vacationers can restore themselves and golfers can indulge themselves.
An Emotional Investment: A Brand of Unyielding Values
The takeaway theme from Mr. Steinhauer's discussion, which is also the basis of this column, is simple: A great brand is a living thing; it is a personality imbued with the emotions – the love and integrity – of its employees.
Every executive has a chance to follow this example; but not every executive will seize this opportunity because the magic I write of, with its luminescent grandeur and architectural splendor, does not suddenly – and magically – appear.
Like actual magicians, who apprentice and train for years (or even decades), art demands absolute discipline. There is no quarter for mediocrity, no space for “good enough.”
It takes dedication and a heartfelt investment for a brand to succeed.
It takes a leader, resolute in his or her beliefs, to accept this duty.
It takes a leader, eloquent in his or her call to action, to enlist workers in this journey.
It takes a leader, strong in character and steadfast in his or he convictions, to sustain people in this effort.
It takes a leader, period, to see the way forward.
“Look, the land is bright.”