An entrepreneur, a leader, a cultivator of talent, and a lighthouse for industry: how did Thalias CEO Arnaud Darc get to where he is today? We took a time-out with him to dig into some of the things that have influenced him, and how he keeps going underneath his many hats…
We sat down with Thalias CEO Arnaud Darc to ask him some questions about leadership, switching off and why the mistakes we make can become the bedrock of future success.
How would you define your leadership style?
I see my main role as being to identify and nurture the innate talents that people have so that they can evolve and grow into their greatest potential for the good of themselves and at the same time for the good of the company. That idea is core to how Thalias has grown the way that it has, and continues to grow even in the face of recent crises. And it is a pleasure for me to see team members becoming the best versions of who they are, and achieving things that go far beyond what they themselves might ever have imagined.
What one piece of advice would you give your younger self?
Invest in yourself, and not just professionally, but also into your health and emotional wellbeing. It’s the surest way of having a long-lasting and positive impact on the people you live and work with, so it pays a double return.
Do you have any hobbies that help you in your work?
In the last few years I discovered running. I started in order to keep fit, and it does do that, but I find that it also helps me to disconnect from the surface stresses of running a large business and supporting the industry. Funnily enough, while I’m running my mind is not consciously focused on problems and decisions that I need to face, it’s focused on the road ahead. But while doing that, I tend to come up with solutions and answers that I might not have otherwise.
What do you do if you want to completely switch off?
Funnily enough, when I want to completely switch off, I sleep. I think it’s one of the most underrated human activities, which is a shame because it’s also one of the most necessary and beneficial. And by sleeping, I mean quality sleep, lots of it, and I work towards achieving that all day. It starts with getting up early in the morning, and getting a sunshine and vitamin-D boost while running or walking my dog, and I continue throughout the day with things like avoiding caffeine late in the day. I couldn’t do what I do without this.
How important is it for executives and leaders to switch off from time to time?
Essential. If you don’t, you risk burning out. We’re not machines and, at the end of the day, nothing is more important than your health, physical and mental. Without that, nothing can get done.
What book has helped you the most to do your job?
I think that Danny Meyers’ book Setting the Table is essential reading for anyone in this business, though much of what he says can be applied in any industry because wisdom is wisdom. It doesn’t need a specific context.
What book(s) do you consider to be essential reading for someone who wants to progress in hospitality leadership?
Setting the Table without a shadow of a doubt, but a podcast I never miss out on is the Huberman Lab podcast (https://hubermanlab.com). They discuss science and science-based tools for everyday life and work, and it has had a tremendous impact on me over the last two years. I love that we can now listen and learn as we go about our day using audio books and podcasts, and it has enriched my life immeasurably, both at and outside of work.
What are your thoughts on mentors and whether people on the way up the ladder should seek one out?
Again, essential for anyone who wants to really grow not just in an industry, but in themselves. A mentor has been around the block a few times, they can recognise where the pitfalls are, and help to guide you through them or around them. While good business is built on relationships, networks and communication, it can also feel very isolating especially when you’re faced with problems that you might not have encountered before. Choosing a good mentor with whom you can be frank and honest, who will not make decisions for you but guide you towards making the right decisions yourself, can make an enormous difference to your success or failure. Choose wisely, ask politely, respond graciously to their advice, and never fail to acknowledge their role.
What is the most valuable trait that you look for in your team leaders?
A willingness to try, and to try to do their best. Sometimes it’s not about the things you already know how to do, but about the things you’re willing to do that you might not have done before that really show whether you’ve got what it takes to get to the next level. It takes courage, confidence and belief in the future, and these qualities are what make a leader, not how good one is at presentations etc. And we learn more from those times when we put ourselves on the line. We’re more alert, more present because we don’t always know what to expect. These are the things we learn and grow the most from.
What was the most important lesson you learned from a mistake you’ve made in the past and how did you turn your thinking about the mistake around?
Mistakes are an unavoidable part of life, and if you’re not making mistakes from time to time, then you’re probably not actually living. But while they can feel hard in the moment, they’re also the strongest steps on your climb of the hill towards success. If you want to succeed, there’s no avoiding or hiding them. My life is a path of many mistakes and as many corrections. Each of them has been important and shown their value in the end as they have helped me become a better version of myself. You can’t find that kind of knowledge and development anywhere or anyway else.
Someone on your team has made a mistake. What is the first thing you would wish them to do?
First off to acknowledge the mistake, and not try to hide it. Everyone makes mistakes from time to time, but it’s more than a mistake if you try to cover it up. Then it becomes a failure. An honest and acknowledged mistake can be rectified, learned from and used as an example for others so they can avoid repeating it. When someone tries to cover up a mistake they’ve made, they’re basically planting a time-bomb inside the fabric of the business, which may blow up in their own face or in the company’s. Neither option is acceptable. It is rare that a mistake is so catastrophic that it can’t be remedied, no matter how awful it might feel to the person who made it at the time.
Which piece of technology can you not live without?
My phone has become absolutely essential to all my efforts to improve and progress. It’s incredible that we can all now access so much knowledge at any time and place simply with the tap of a screen. I still remember when if you wanted to know something, you had to run to the city library and look it up. It took half a day to find out what is available to us now in seconds. It still amazes me all the time.
There is a global one-month power cut. What will Thalias do to make sure it survives through it?
Hard to say exactly in such a scenario, but it does highlight how we all need to prepare ourselves to depend on renewable energy sources, but also limit how much we consume today. Even the seemingly infinite has limits… And it makes economic sense too.