Great Leaders Can Positively Influence Customer Experience


I wish the titles “leader” and “manager” would go hand in hand, but that’s not always the case. I have worked for both and there is a clear difference between the two. Merriam-Webster describes a manager as “a person who directs a team.” Simply directing a team might have worked long ago but it doesn’t cut the mustard in today’s workplace.

I don’t know about you but I prefer to work for a “leader”—someone that inspires me.  One of my favorite leadership quotes is from the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao -Tzu,

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” Lao-Tzu

Great leaders can positively influence customer experience!


My 8 year old son and I recently went clothes shopping for a young man who was being teased at high school because of what he was wearing. This was a teachable moment for my son, and I was looking forward to our conversations before, during and after. The only challenge we faced was that we were not current on “teenager” fashion. We had to depend on the knowledge of the salesperson. Here is what happened after we entered the store…

“There were only two people working, and one was clearly the manager and the other the salesperson. My son and I started browsing the clothing racks. We were obviously out of place in this store. The manager, with her “title” tag proudly displayed, sat behind the counter and watched us flounder through aisle after aisle of clothing. She was completing paperwork of some sort. After 5 minutes passed, she looked our way and said, “A salesperson will be with you in a few minutes.” I immediately had a flashback to my early years of leasing and remembered working for that type of manager. I was determined NOT to ask her for help! The salesperson on the other hand was franticly cleaning up the dressing rooms, restocking shelves and folding shirts on display tables. My first thought, “I need to recruit this salesperson.” My second thought, “I wonder what he thinks about his manager?” She was a textbook manager—right out of Merriam-Webster—“a person who directs a team.”

Leaders provide light. Managers provide heat.

Tim Durkin, Seneca Leadership

There was no light shining on this poor salesperson—only heat!

If you are thinking that your manager’s would never behave this way—better think again. The Property Manager title sometimes causes people to lose sight of their most important job—leading and inspiring people. Why? Because their jobs are often layered with all that other “stuff” and they are told it is ALL a priority and it was all due yesterday!

Been there, done that?


While many property management companies are chasing their tails trying to overcome negative customer experiences and customer reviews, some are also proactively focusing on what just might be at the root of the problem—the people that are leading their leasing teams. Research shows that a well-designed and led customer experience can trigger emotions that have a positive effect on customer retention and customer loyalty—inside and out. Certainly we don’t have complete control over a customer’s emotions, but a well-designed emotionally engaging experience can’t hurt. I believe it starts great leadership!

Which category of employee do you think will provide the best and most consistent customer experience?

  1. They love their job and hate their manager (too many)
  2. They hate their job and love their manager (my husband)
  3. They love their job and love their manager (the lucky ones)
  4. They hate their job and hate their manager (ouch)

I am betting on door number 3! Still don’t think there is a connection?

Things that make you go hmmm…


  • THEY LISTEN- Great leaders listen to what their internal and external customers are saying and then they act on the information. They don’t expect to always receive positive feedback. They understand that growth only occurs when you are willing to improve weaknesses and constraints.
  • THEY KNOW WHEN TO GET INVOLVED. A great leader empowers the team to work independently but knows when to step in. They are willing and able to make big, important decisions when necessary. They understand that this might not always make them popular, but they are always focused on what is best for the team and the company.
  • THEY GIVE, SEEK AND ACCEPT CONSTRUCTIVE FEEDBACK. They know the type of feedback that resonates with each employee. They are also open to their own constructive feedback (surveys) from their supervisor, subordinates and even external customers. They ask questions—lots of questions.
    • Is there anything that I can do that will help you perform better?
    • Do you have all of the tools that you need to be successful?
    • Is there anything that I can work on that will make me a better leader?
    • Is there anything I can do that will improve your experience?

Great leaders aim to build teams that believe and perform during prosperous and difficult times. They understand that if they can inspire their employees, then their employees will inspire their customers. The result can be one great experience after another!

Can you give me an example of how a great leader inspired someone you know to deliver a great customer experience? Don’t be shy!

Maria Lawson
Vice President of Training and Development
Ellis Partners in Management Solutions