Lessons In Greatness


Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to attend GBTA’s The Masters Program in Washington, D.C. It was a fantastic chance to connect with some wonderful people in the industry – both those that I’ve known for years and others who I just met.

The event kicked off with a dinner and remarks from Senator Mary L. Landrieu (D-LA).   The Senator shared her background and family history in politics as well as her efforts supporting business travel in her roles serving on various committees.

Sen Landrieu Donna Kelliher - DSC_9990

It was so refreshing to hear a politician who truly understands the importance of the business travel industry. “You can do a lot on the internet,” she said, “but there is never going to be a complete substitute for shaking hands, looking each other in the eye and doing business.” Amen.

On day two we were treated to a presentation by international bestselling author Jim Collins who shared insights from his many years of research on what distinguishes great organizations from the merely good and what it takes to excel as a leader in this industry. Listening to Jim and the dialogue he created was incredibly energizing.

Jim Collins - Question from audience - DSC_0456

One thing Jim said that really struck a chord with me was that greatness and great leadership is not a function of circumstance. Greatness is first and foremost a matter of conscious choice and discipline. It is so important for us as we strive to be leaders in our industry or our company to remember that every day and in everything we do, we have the choice to be great. We have the choice to fill our work with passion and enthusiasm driving success.

The day continued with so many great executives sharing their experiences and perspectives on important industry topics and debating what will be the next big innovation to disrupt the industry.

I was fortunate to get to moderate an interview with Pamela Codispoti, American Express Executive Vice President and General Manager. Pam is an incredibly accomplished woman who has worked at American Express since 1993 and now manages all aspects of product strategy, product innovation, business development, digital solutions, prospect and customer marketing – quite the responsibility! She’s also the mom to two young twin boys.

Pamela Codispoti from American Express and Donna Kelliher - DSC_0880

It was great getting to chat with Pam and learn about looking at the business traveler from a different perspective than many on the travel management side are used to. She talked about the changing dynamics of the frequent traveler as millennials now comprise 50 percent of the workforce and more road warriors expect the same type of experience they enjoy in consumer life. She said it is important for American Express to think of the end user first and create all of our solutions with their ever-evolving needs in mind.

I find events like these are a great way to hit refresh on your energy and passion as you come away with so many new ideas and concepts to put into practice in your career. I encourage you all to look for opportunities to network with your colleagues and learn from others.

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