Calling All Leaders: It’s Time to Shine!

January 21, 2021

Gary Hernbroth

After 17 successful and colorful years in the luxury hospitality business in sales and operations leadership roles, Gary Hernbroth founded Training for Winners in 1995. His clients include national associations, companies, hospitality firms, convention facilities, high-tech, public sector, clubs, universities and wineries, to name a few. Hernbroth is also a noted inspirational speaker at events—virtual, hybrid and in-person.


I’m no different than most of you. I had a business plan for 2020. It was working nicely in January and February. Then WHAMMO! A veritable meteor hit the earth. COVID-19 was thrust upon us quickly, violently, changing our landscape entirely. Since then, we’ve been at “war” with this pandemic. It’s often felt like one step forward, three steps back.

Shift happened. Shift is happening. And it will continue to shift during recovery, like sand under our feet. It can be maddening. We make plans and then later we have to throw out our playbook and change it all again many times as conditions dictate. I refer to that as “shifting sand leadership,” and it requires a special breed of person.

During all of this, have you been asked to step up and be a leader, or to develop your leadership skills more fully? Maybe you are the last person standing where there used to be a team a year ago? Leadership can be situational like that. But while emergency “firefighting” is indeed important at the time, leaders need something more sustainable long-term. They aren’t really leading if all they do is react and run around putting out fires. They have to get out in front of it and pre-act, plan and then execute. Where is the playbook for that?

Here is a short course in five critical areas for your own leadership playbook, based on my experiences in many organizations of all types and sizes:

Clearly Communicate the Mission: What gets measured gets done, and what is understood gets done quicker. People want to know: What is the overall goal here? What are we expected to do? How do you want it to look when it’s finished? When does it need to be completed by? Clear, concise and constant communication saves people from running off in different directions, wasting efforts, wasting precious time and a whole lot of other unfortunate things.

Prioritize: Do first things first. Define what your “Job One” is. And remember that not everything can be “Priority No. 1” at the same time. Make lists: What is most immediately important for us and our customers? What will give us the best momentum? What is achievable, at least initially? Small victories at the start really add up. As a leader, be your team’s pathfinder. A leader who clearly defines and communicates the new priorities will find that they get accomplished quicker.

Gather Your Necessary Resources: Even the best of leaders can be hampered by a lack of resources. Think about your mission and what you will need. Start by categorizing your needs into what I call “The 3 Ps” that are found in every organization/team: people, products and procedures. It becomes easier to see what the greatest needs are in each area: People (staffing, team deployment, human resources, etc.), products (what you produce, equipment, etc.) and procedures (the way you do things, processes, policies, etc.).

Remember my earlier point about “throwing away the old playbook?” You may need totally different resources thanks to the new realities of your business during these times. Great coaches adjust to game conditions and redeploy their resources to their best advantage.

Show Confidence and Courage: You’ll need to have the mettle to make tough calls, to show confidence and conviction in your decisions (even when you have your doubts). Confidence is admirable but cockiness can be a brand-killer. Know the difference. Being courageous is about taking risks, which means that you’ll have to ask people to stretch themselves, do things differently and to challenge convictions. And while you can’t win them all, if your risk-taking is based on solid factors and you have a team that believes in you and supports your efforts, then you have greatly increased your chances for success. Remember: Leadership is not like winning a high school popularity contest. You’ll never please everyone about everything.

Be Consistent: The great writer Rudyard Kipling once wrote: “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you…” Does it sound to you, too, like Kipling was talking about leaders? While all people are emotional, those in leadership roles are expected to be even-keeled, especially in rough times. Leaders should strive to set a calming example, especially in a whirlwind like today. While it may not be easy, people respond better to consistency around them.

Now and for the foreseeable future, things are unquestionably surreal and off-kilter, especially in this industry. It’s been a tough slog, yet signs are hinting that certain aspects of our business are beginning to re-awaken. And for you leaders out there, remember this: The brightest leaders shine in the darkest times.

We’re pretty much there right now. Are you ready to shine?


Add new comment

Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.