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Arguably, a case can be made, that this crisis from a business perspective, has taken direct aim at Airbnb and assaulted its business model. The travel industry has been in the eye of the sales storm. And to add insult to injury, Airbnb was positioned to go public in 2020.

During the past 60+ days, I've been working closely with not only businesses, but business leaders. For good reason. John Maxwell rightly states, "Everything rises and falls on leadership." 

For years, I've coached business owners and executives by saying, "When the leader gets better, the business gets better." 

So, I was curious, how would CEO of Airbnb Brian Chesky, respond and react to his business being broadsided?

Chesky conveys that "A crisis brings about clarity. We may be smaller (no longer 2 million daily visitors), but we can be useful." And they're being useful in significant ways. 

  • They've provided 5 million overnight stays to front line workers. 
  • They've given away thousands of nights of shelter to military families in need. 
  • They are providing relief to their stakeholders (hosts) to the tune of 250 million dollars. 
  • They've established an additional 17 million dollar grant program to provide further relief to qualified hosts (9m of his own money). 
  • They've improved relationships with cities through significantly closer communication.
Chesky, in an interview with LinkedIn Editor in Chief Daniel Roth, stated the following:

"I determined that I was going to make 'principled' decisions vs. 'business' decisions. We would focus on being decisive (speed), consider our stakeholders first (vs. shareholders), and understand that we'll be remembered by how we've handled this crisis."

During these devastating economic days, Airbnb has discovered relevant and potentially robust new revenue streams.

  • Online experiences for their virtual guests (Cirque Du Soleil as an example) 
  • Monthly stays vs. weekly. They've discovered that many people believe, "That since I have to work remotely, I can work anywhere." They believe this will be an ongoing trend.
  • Their number of deactivations (lost hosts) has miraculously held steady year over year. Now, more than ever, people need ways to pay their mortgages. Renting their rooms provides relief.

There's still a lot of heavy lifting to do for Airbnb. But...

It's not surprising that when the leader gets better, the business gets better.

The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania publishes some amazing content around innovation and leadership. Recently they published an article by Yoram Wind and Nitin Rakesh on the topic of "Ten Guidelines for Creating Opportunities in a Time of Crisis." It's a must-read filled with insights and great guidelines for crisis management and strategic maneuvering during difficult days.

They conclude by saying:

"In addition to these guidelines, one fundamental factor – leadership — will determine if you will be able to create opportunities in the current crisis. Implementing these 10 guidelines calls for courageous leadership. You need leaders who are comfortable with making decisions under uncertainty, who are willing to experiment with new ideas and — above all, realizing the urgency of the situation — can act decisively and rapidly. You need leaders who are compassionate about people. There are huge human implications if you have no choice but to fire a lot of people."

In other words, the business can't and won't get better until the leader gets better. 

Several days ago, thought leader Seth Godin said in his daily blog the following about this crisis:

"Is it too soon to wonder what’s next? And at the heart of it: how can you contribute?

Average work for average people is going to be worth less than ever before.

Typical employees doing typical work are going to be less respected and valued than ever before... I had no idea that the world would shift in this way and we’d need new voices and new leadership so much right now."

Once again, this crisis demands leadership. What are you doing to become a better leader?

Leadership graphic

1. Are you reading? Leaders are learners. 

2. Are you coachable? Do you have someone around you who is bold enough to discuss your blind spots? Caring enough to challenge your assumptions and hold you accountable? Creative enough to bring out the best of possibilities within you? 

3. Do you have a coach? Have you invested time and money to demonstrate your drive to get better?

4. Are you leaning on others? Leaders don't lead alone. They don't dictate. They collaborate. Your best leadership will come from drawing out the best and believing in others. 

More than ever our teams and employees are longing for leadership. They will get better if we pay the price to get better. Everything, yes everything, rises and falls on leadership. 

If you would like a 2nd set of eyes on what you're doing to chart the course personally and professionally then let's open a conversation. 

Schedule a complimentary conversation



Topics: sales leadership, sales management, leadership

Dan Whitfield

Written by Dan Whitfield

Dan is dedicated to "coaching up" small business owners and leaders of growth-oriented sales organizations. His goal is to help you get where you want to go. Faster.