I arrived at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead in Atlanta late in the afternoon at the end of a week on the road.  My dress pants needed pressing for an early morning keynote.  Dialing the hotel housekeeping department, I was told that someone would be right up to get my trousers.  Moments later, a tiny Asian women probably in her mid-fifties knocked on my door.  When I gave her my pants she informed me she would have them back to me in less than an hour.  “If you have to leave,” she told me, “your pants will be waiting for you in your closet.”

Forty-five minutes later, she was back.  “Thank you for giving me the honor of pressing your beautiful pants,” she said with excitement and a smile on her face.  “They are some of the nicest pants I have ever pressed.”  I wondered about the source of her gracious style and passionate attitude.  What made Nuriya so guest-centric?

Then, I got the answer as she continued: “Here is my business card.  Call me anytime and we will take care of your housekeeping needs.”  Her card revealed her title: “Laundry/Valet.”  But, there was more.  “And, on behalf of the Ritz-Carlton, I would like to present you with this package of stays for your shirt collars.”

I was blown away.  What kind of leadership must be fronting this refined and classy guest service? How many hotel laundry employees on the planet have their own business card plus a special surprise gift for their guest?

Innovative service goes viral when it is echoed from a leader who treats associates exactly the way customers should be treated.  And, a powerful, compelling leadership echo happens when leaders connect with employees instead of cocooning in their office in meetings.  It fuels smart execution when employee affirmation is coupled with discipline; generous support is added to well-defined accountability.  And, innovative service is displayed to customers in its purest form when leaders show frontline employees sincere respect and consideration.

Customers get a peephole into the culture of an organization through their experience with the frontline.  Indifferent, unengaged employees spell uncaring leadership.  Bureaucratic systems and draconian policies telegraph bean counting, self-centered leaders who only care about immediate revenue and not long-term customer loyalty.

What is the sound of your leadership if it is only heard as an echo through your employees?

This post also appeared as part of the Frontline Festival hosted by Let’s Grow Leaders. For more on creating and nurturing connections check out the festival for insight from nearly 30 thought leaders on the topic.