Leadership Insights: St. Julian Scholars Convene for Autumn Meeting

Last Friday, the St Julian Scholars Autumn Meeting unfolded at the Westin London City, leaving a lasting mark on attendees with a lineup of inspiring speakers and insightful discussions. From overcoming personal challenges to industry updates and leadership revelations, the event was a testament to the resilience and innovation within the hospitality sector. 

A morning of inspiration 

The meeting kicked off with a powerful presentation by Simon Maguire, West Peak, who shared his remarkable journey from a kitchen porter to head of operations at Harbour Hotels. Maguire courageously discussed his battle with opioid addiction, a struggle triggered by an unhealthy work/life balance in the demanding hospitality industry.  

Through fitness, he found solace, shedding light on the importance of mental health in achieving personal and work goals. Maguire emphasised the role of a supportive network, underscoring the significance of being surrounded by the right people to stay on course. 

Next up on stage, Angela Maher provided a compelling update on the charitable endeavours of the Savoy Educational Trust, focusing on the support and growth initiatives within the industry. Maher encouraged hoteliers to engage with the trust, not only by contributing to its work but also by employing individuals who have benefited from its support. She concluded her talk by urging St Julian Scholars to maintain curiosity, emphasising the continuous pursuit of knowledge and improvement. 

A chance to digest and compare notes 

Attendees were then treated a delicious lunch with the chance to network and catch up with industry peers, as well as an exclusive tour of the Westin London City, a two-year-old hotel with breathtaking views of the River Thames, Shakespeare’s Globe and Tate Modern. The tour included visits to the Mosaic bar area, Hithe + Seek dining space, a selection of rooms and the hugely impressive presidential suite, providing a firsthand look at the hotel's opulence and sophistication. 

Where is the industry, what do we need to do, how can we deliver? 

After lunch, Kate Nicholls OBE, UKHospitality, delivered a comprehensive update on the state of the hospitality industry. Despite challenges, including a 6% decrease in tourists spending compared to 2019, the sector is demonstrating resilience with an 87% occupancy rate. Nicholls highlighted the industry's substantial contribution to the economy, discussing ongoing conversations with the government and opposition party on topics such as VAT, skills development, and apprenticeship support. 

Following the industry update, Dr. Jutta Tobias, Cranfield University, led a thought-provoking workshop on leadership in the 21st century, challenging traditional notions of leadership as akin to superheroes. She emphasised the importance of psychological safety within teams, encouraging leaders to lead with vulnerability. The workshop inspired discussions on decision-making, team dynamics, and the necessity of giving every team member a voice. 

Jonathan Reed, Paddy and Scott’s, shared insights on the significance of team retention, drawing from his self-proclaimed difficult experience as the Restaurant and Room Service Manager at a hotel and today as the CEO of Paddy and Scott’s. Reed stressed the importance of creating of an ethical and supportive work environment and detailed how his company prioritises learning as a means of leadership and collective growth. 

Wrapping up the day, Mark Calver, Hatch Mansfield, led an insightful talk on environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) in the wine industry. Drawing on his extensive expertise, Calver highlighted the significance of embracing sustainable practices, community engagement, and responsible business conduct. His compelling insights underscored the pivotal role of ESG principles in ensuring the longevity of vineyards and cultivating positive relationships within local communities, resonating with industry professionals and promoting a more sustainable future for the wine business. 

Key takeaway for Scholars 

Overall, the St Julian Scholars Autumn Meeting at Westin London City was an enriching experience, showcasing not only the challenges faced by the hospitality industry but also the resilience, innovation, and collective efforts that drive its success. The event left attendees inspired and armed with valuable insights to navigate the evolving landscape of the hospitality sector.