By Al Shams | Business Sense

Several weeks ago I had the unique pleasure of spending 90 minutes with Mike Leven. We had an amicable, wide-ranging discussion on several topics, with a special focus on leadership.

While the focus of this article is leadership principles, it would be helpful for our readers to have some insight into Mike’s background.

Mike grew up as an only child in a middle-class Boston family. He attended public schools and was active in many extracurricular activities, often in leadership roles. Mike graduated from Tufts University and earned a master’s from Boston University.

OP-Publisher Mike Leven

Mike Leven

His entire career has been in the hospitality industry. He has held senior management positions at Days Inn, U.S. Franchise Systems (Microtel Hawthorn), Holiday Inn Worldwide, Las Vegas Sands, and the Georgia Aquarium, where he is the CEO.

Mike has also founded several hospitality trade groups and has served the public in numerous capacities.

Time and space do not allow us to cite Mike’s many contributions to the Atlanta Jewish community, the city, the state and others. Be assured that he has been a significant philanthropist on many levels. We are all lucky to have Mike and his family in our community.

During our discussion, the following principles of leadership emerged:

  • Great leaders are completely committed to the success of the team; any other consideration is secondary or nonexistent.
  • A leader leads from the front, leads by example, takes risks personally for the benefit of the group, and encourages others to take balanced, intelligent risks.
  • Great leaders know that each team member could do better and be more productive. The leader seeks to motivate, inspire, encourage and uplift team members to higher levels. These team members know that with effective leadership they can reach greater heights.

A good leader:

  • Sets examples, embracing and promoting good values, and seeks to have a positive impact on his team and society.
  • Is all about behavior, vision and empowering others; it is not about position, money or fame.
  • Is about effective, honest communication with team members.
  • Knows there is great strength in unity. Strength flows both ways, from leaders to the team and vice versa.
  • Knows it is OK to admit mistakes.
  • Makes his own faults known to team members, who will be forgiving if faults are honestly admitted.
  • Realizes that to deny a well-known mistake is to lose trust.
  • Is quick to recognize the achievements of others but does not seek recognition for himself. His satisfaction comes from the success of the team.
  • Is attentive to the needs of the team.

Examples of leadership:

  • When I was in the Coast Guard, the ship’s captain had a policy of making sure his men had enough to eat before he would eat.
  • The U.S. military, especially in combat, has produced many examples of great leaders inspiring their men to incredible feats of courage; think George Washington and Dwight Eisenhower.

Mike believes that many of the leadership principles that have guided his life were gleaned from the examples set by his parents and grandparents. His active participation as a young man in sports and AZA were good learning experiences.

In the area of public policy, Mike believes that we are all aware of the major problems. A good leader formulates and communicates a solution, then seeks to implement that solution.

Mike Leven is a tremendous human being. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit with him. He has been a great benefactor to the Jewish community and his fellow man. Mike’s insights and actions should inspire us all to lead more productive, empowered lives.