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7 Questions on Leadership with Jean-Paul Riby

Name: Jean-Paul Riby

Title: Director Sustainable Hotel Asset Development at TLC / CEO Harmony Hotels & Resorts

Oranisation: TLC Harmony

Jean-Paul’s immensely varied experience has led him to expertly develop how business tourism and the continuation of sustainable growth are key for a company. He is a C-level executive, mentor, project leader, and design enthusiast coupled with 35 years in the hospitality sector.

For more than 30 of those years, Jean-Paul has been at the forefront of hospitality in emerging markets, driving innovation in Southeast Asia, and searching for the talent to mentor top future hoteliers. He is actively involved in numerous industry organizations including the International Wine & Food Society, is a contributor to the book EQ & Leadership in Asia on using emotional intelligence to lead and inspire people, and is a speaker at hospitality events around the world.


In Life we do things, some we wish we had never done, some we wish we could replay a million times. But they all make us who we are, and in the end, they shape every detail about us. If we were to reverse any of them, we wouldn’t be the person we are. So just live. Make mistakes, and have wonderful memories. But never second guess who you are, where you have been, and most importantly where it is you are going….

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope Paul's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

Having journeyed through multiple countries globally, the greatest challenge I encountered was acclimating to the diverse cultural shifts.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

Leadership began early for me, being the eldest of three siblings in a household where both parents worked, necessitating my care for my younger brother and sister. This early responsibility laid the foundation for my leadership abilities, which became evident once I transitioned into my professional career. As I ascended to executive roles, I gained insights into the multifaceted nature of leadership, reinforcing my belief in the adage, "People may forget who you are, but they never forget how you made them feel."

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

I place a high value on organization and meticulousness, making every minute of my day significant. My routine typically begins early, dedicating time to personal development activities like fitness, meditation, and setting daily goals. My schedule is meticulously structured, with mornings reserved for email communication and project reviews, while afternoons are focused on team evaluations and providing feedback. Lunchtime serves as an opportunity for me to contemplate fresh ideas over a pleasant meal. My day usually concludes in the late afternoon, allowing me time for my daughter, followed by a tranquil evening.

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

A poignant instance where a CEO, such as myself, might encounter a profound leadership lesson for the first time was during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. In this crisis, I faced the daunting task of reducing my team sizes by 50% and slashing the executive team of expatriates by a staggering 80%. This challenging situation not only tested my leadership skills but also demanded the integration of qualities like compassion, empathy, care, and fairness into my usual leadership approach. The decision to lay off employees weighed heavily on me, leading to many sleepless nights filled with concern for those who were suddenly without employment.

This experience reshaped my understanding of leadership, teaching me that it's not just about making tough decisions, but also about the humane approach one takes in doing so. It highlighted the importance of balancing business needs with the well-being of employees.

The moral of this story is somewhat ironic and humbling. Just a few months later, I found myself in a similar position as those I had to let go. The country's closure to the outside world led to a significant downturn in business, ultimately affecting my role. This turn of events served as a stark reminder that the impacts of such global crises are far-reaching and can reverberate back to those who initially seem insulated, underscoring the interconnectedness of all roles within an organization and the unpredictability of such challenging times.

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

Several books have significantly influenced my approach to leadership, and I'd like to share a few notable ones:

"Think and Grow Rich" by Napoleon Hill

"The Secret of The Science of Getting Rich" by Bob Proctor

"The Code of the Extraordinary Mind" by Vishen Lakhiani

"The Answer" by John Assaraf

"High-Performance Habits" by Brendon Burchard

"The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen R. Covey

Among these, the one that profoundly reshaped my leadership style and vision was "Think and Grow Rich" by Napoleon Hill. This book delves into the influential role of thought and mindset in advancing one's career, emphasizing the psychological aspects of achieving both financial success and personal fulfillment. It stands out as a pivotal resource in understanding the power of focused thought and intention in leadership and personal growth.

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

Your mindset is the key element in achieving success and personal fulfillment in leadership, acting as the most influential part of the puzzle.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

I want to recount a significant moment: the first time I addressed a team of 500 employees at a hotel. They requested I share a life-altering experience. This took me back to my time as a General Manager in Bhutan, where I was introduced to their unique measure of progress, "Gross National Happiness." This concept, which Bhutan embraces, is a comprehensive development approach that values citizens' well-being and happiness more than just economic expansion, integrating sustainable development, cultural values preservation, environmental conservation, and effective governance. This encounter profoundly transformed my perspective on life balance, marking the beginning of a profound personal transformation.

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