As part of our continued She Leads series of women leaders, this week we are proud to introduce you to Lara Weiss. Lara has spent nearly 3 decades in the hotel industry working in all areas of revenue and business development. She specializes in Corporate Account Management, Consortia and Travel Agent sales and offers expert insight into the GDS and Channel Distribution. Below are her answers to five questions which shouldn't take more than 3 minutes of your time. #womenleaders#womeninhospitality#nightingalehospitality#sheleads
1.) Do you experience resistance when you are leading men? I can only recall one time that I had an male employee that I had issues with. I suffered far more resistance from working lateral with men or actually for men. My confidence and usually my depth of knowledge would tend to intimidate men either in that they felt threatened or if my superior, it would have been more my stubbornness to cave! Only a couple times did I ever run into an issue that I felt was impeding my future. In both occasions, my choice was to move on rather than battle and in both cases it was definitely the right decision for my career. As far as leading men, I have always felt I had a very good rapport with men on my various teams as One; I believe they saw my female strength not as a way to dominate them, but rather about building the entire team up and reaching our collective success and Two; I never created a competitive environment among my team. I was as much a worker as they were. I think that was always key to leading and working well with me - as long as the man has his own level of confidence to keep up with me!
2.) What advice would you give to the next generation of leaders? Leading to me is about mentoring through inspiration and not driving results through intimidation. I have worked for many types of leaders and honestly, the old “fear management” is long gone. You need to earn respect from your team through leading by example. To be a leader, you also need to own up to the position you are in. You need to know the business better than anyone that you are claiming to lead and you need to be open to new ideas because nothing builds a team better than making others feel they are valued. The hardest thing for a leader, and a woman at that, is to not allow the voice of question be taken as a personal attack or to “wear our hearts on our sleeves”. Being too soft doesn’t help your employees grow and being defensive or inconsiderate will create resentment and ultimately, without respect, you cannot call yourself a leader.
3.) As a female leader in hospitality, what has been the most significant barrier in your career? Opportunity. I made choices right as I was topping my vertical climb in my career to focus more on my family and had to admit to myself that I did not want to spend the amount of time that my position required. I was lucky to have a boss then that understood that being a mom was as important as being a career woman and supported my movement into a better place for me personally. My challenge then was to stay relevant and make sure that at any given moment, if opportunity presented itself, I could jump back in without missing a beat. I was blessed to pick up contracts with amazing hotels and leaders in this industry that saw my real value and have had a very successful 10 year run as an Independent Contractor including launching Autonomous Hospitality in 2017. Now as my children are growing up, I am reconsidering how I want to proceed. I find that I am on the cusp of something and have so many irons in the fire that I cannot imagine walking away right now. The last 4 years have been so rewarding working with SiteMinder and working with hotels around the world. I always imagined myself with a global company and travel is so important to me and exposure to other cultures. The world awaits me – let’s see if opportunity comes knocking.
4.) What woman inspires you and why? This is tough. I never really look at someone and say, I want to be just like her. If I had to choose someone in our modern times (as Queen Elizabeth I is impossible to emulate) I would have to say the actress Emma Thompson. She was filming a movie once at the hotel I was working at and I got to spend a few hours with her. It was early into my Los Angeles life, and I was still trying to make it as an actress. We sat together talking and watching the shoot and I recall “seeing” all the Extras in the room, desperate to get a break and telling myself I did not want to be one of them anymore. I remember her saying to me: Never do anything you don’t want to do. Always make sure you feel good about yourself and make choices that make you happy. Remember, your home life should be your priority, always. I am not sure if that is exactly what she said, but it was something like that, and I know that my entire focus changed in that moment. It was not long after that I was moving up the ladder in hotels and seeing a different future ahead. I have held on to her advice, and I am sure that it was the driving force for my lifestyle change 10 years ago, just knowing that I was killing myself for work while missing 3 children at home and it was not making me happy. I can tell you, that today, 28 years into my career, I am where I want to be, with no regrets, and can only look forward to more Happy days! 5.) Where can we find you at 10am on a Saturday? If not for Covid 19, you would normally have found me tagging along with my daughter to her dance competitions or assistant coaching my son in basketball. Now that my youngest is heading into high school, when not a dance competitions, if I could choose one thing to be doing on Saturdays at 10am, it would probably be kicking back reading a book or watching some period drama on TV that takes me out of the world for a bit!