What Customer Service Reveals About Untapped Leadership

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Looking for untapped leadership potential?

Try looking for the person who is providing outstanding customer service.


That was one of the key take-away’s I jotted across my notebook page at this year’s Global Leadership Summit.

The session featured Horst Schulze, COO of the Ritz Carlton Hotels. In his fantastic talk, Schulze challenged leaders to explore the relationship between leadership and customer service.

And as he built his case, it dawned on me that when you spot outstanding customer service, you may actually be seeing evidence in that person that there is remarkable leadership potential waiting to be discovered and developed.

Because those who provide exemplary customer service are;

  • Others-focused
  • Intuitive
  • Solution-oriented
  • Initiative takers.

In other words, the core qualities of someone who provides exceptional service are the very qualities you would look for in a rising leader.

Several years ago I saw this truth played out while waiting to pick up two conference speakers in the Calgary airport. This was before cell phones, and the speakers were arriving at the same time, on separate flights, at completely opposite ends of the terminal.

But a sharp thinking airport volunteer recognized my dilemma and offered to wait for one speaker, while I went to meet the other.

But she did much more than simply tell my arriving guest that I would be a few minutes late. When I returned to that part of the airport I found her sitting in a local café having coffee with my conference speaker. She made him feel welcome, at ease, and well cared-for.

That volunteer had exhibited not only exceptional customer service. She had demonstrated core leadership ability.

She recognized a problem, she took initiative to find a solution, and she executed her solution with excellence.

That’s leadership.

Ever since then I’ve kept a watchful eye out for people inside and outside organizations I lead who exhibit these qualities. And more often than not, I’ve discovered that inside the person who is providing such service, lies the heart of a leader.

Who have you encountered of late who has provided exceptional customer service? Perhaps there’s someone in your own organization whom you have observed going well above and beyond the call of duty in order to provide great service to a customer or to a member of your church.

You might well have found someone with more than great customer service skills.

You might have found your next rising leader.



the author

Scott Cochrane

Lifelong learner, practitioner and coach of leadership, across more than 50 countries. Follower of Jesus, husband of Nora, grateful parent and grandparent.

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