Leadership Lesson Learned from a Vegas Casino

In 1993, the MGM Grand Las Vegas hotel opened to a TON of international fanfare.  One of the first destination resorts designed to attract families to the Vegas strip, the MGM Grand was the largest hotel in the world at the time of its grand opening.  Emerald green glass plates covered the outside of the building and guests could follow a yellow-brick road to a Wizard of Oz attraction complete with cornfields, haunted forests and animatronic versions of Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Scare Crow and the Wicked Witch of the West.

Topping off the Wizard of Oz theme — and playing off MGM’s Leo the Lion logo — the hotel’s planners designed a main entrance of almost ridiculous proportions:  Patrons walked straight through the mouth of a multi-story golden lion upon arrival at the casino.

It wasn’t long, however, until the hotel’s owners realized that they’d made a horrible mistake:  They’d inadvertently alienated Chinese gamblers — a group that bring MILLIONS of dollars to Vegas every year during the Chinese New Year — who believe that walking through the mouth of a beast brings bad luck.  Afraid of tempting fate and losing their shirts at the hotel’s casinos, Chinese gamblers stayed away from the Grand, pushing the business to the brink of bankruptcy until they replaced their trademark “mouth of the lion” entrance in 1996. 

Stew in THAT mistake for a minute, would you?

The designers of a multi-million dollar property pushed forward with their plans without thinking about the needs, wants and interests of some of their most important customers.  The hotel wasted time and money on a idea that seemed perfect on paper, but that ignored the realities of the environment that they were working in.  Instead of trying to create a hotel that satisfied customers, they created a hotel that satisfied themselves and simultaneously alienated the very people that their business depended on.  After losing social and financial capital, they were forced back to the drawing board just three short years after opening.

Can you see the leadership lesson in the story of the Grand?

Driving successful change efforts depends on developing plans that resonate with YOUR core customers, too.  Listening to students, parents, teachers and community leaders when reimagining what learning spaces are going to look like is essential simply because sustainable change inevitably depends on the support of the people that you are trying to serve.  The best change agents recognize that driving organizations forward depends on more than identifying good ideas.  Instead, driving organizations forward depends on identifying good ideas that key stakeholders are likely to embrace.

Any of this make sense?

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2 thoughts on “Leadership Lesson Learned from a Vegas Casino

  1. Savanah

    It all makes perfect sense! Sometimes as leaders we do what would want instead of what would benefit the whole group. As teachers, it is very important for us not to do that! I’m sure every teacher would love having an hour coloring session then a hour nap time for their classes. You could get a lot of work and paperwork done, but the kids would never learn all the things they needed to learn that day!

    Also, I think sometimes we rush through our lessons so that we cover all of the criteria that is required by the state, once again benefiting us more than the student, just to have to go back and re-teach it before the end of the year because no one really understood it. We’ve wasted time just like they did in building in the casino! We have to think of our kids when decided if we should move on from a topic of if we should spend more time on it. If 75% of the class still isn’t understanding, then we should slow it down and go more in depth in the topic. We have to be flexible with our lesson calenders! Just because it works on paper, doesn’t mean it’ll work in your classroom!

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