Michael Vlad: Balancing Business Acumen with Compassion

Michael Vlad is the General Manager and CEO at The Argyle and a distinguished figure in the world of hospitality. His career in hospitality draws significant influence from his father, who boasts decades of experience managing hotels and restaurants in Europe. From an early age, he absorbed the fundamental values of hospitality—sharing, caring, and respect—guided by his mother, who served as his full-time tutor.

At 20, Michael arrived in New York City and began a transformative journey that led him to the renowned “Windows on the World” restaurant at the World Trade Center One. Here, he refined his skills and passion for service alongside an exceptional team of professionals who played a pivotal role in shaping his career.

However, Michael’s life took an unexpected turn on September 11, 2001, when he narrowly escaped the tragic events at the World Trade Center. The loss of 87 colleagues left an indelible mark on him, leading to a year-long period of reflection and reevaluation of his career path.

His pursuit of knowledge continued at prestigious institutions such as the Institute of Arts, Cornell University, and the University of Berkeley Haas Business School. This academic journey opened doors to new perspectives and knowledge that Michael incorporated into his transformational leadership style.

As the General Manager and CEO of The Argyle, Michael is committed to providing resources to the staff, nurturing their education, and inspiring them to achieve both personal and organizational goals. His passion for hospitality and dedication to excellence establish him as a dynamic leader in the industry.

Triumph over Adversity and Exemplary Pandemic Leadership

Michael has defined his career by facing and overcoming significant challenges that tested his leadership and adaptability. Two particularly noteworthy challenges stand out, showcasing his resilience and innovative problem-solving.

First, he faced the traumatic experience of being near the World Trade Center during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which resulted in the loss of many friends. Confronting the emotional trauma of this event and continuing his career while honoring their memory required exceptional strength and psychological resilience, demonstrating his capacity to endure and emerge stronger from adversity.

The second substantial challenge was the global impact of COVID-19, which affected not only his workforce but society as a whole. In the early stages of the pandemic, Michael exhibited remarkable leadership by promptly implementing effective strategies. He ensured free on-site COVID testing for the entire workforce to create a safe working environment. Furthermore, he enabled over 50% of the staff to work from home while maintaining full medical benefits and compensation. This proactive response protected the workforce and minimized operational disruption.

Moreover, Michael’s ability to retain over 95% of the workforce during the pandemic underscores his commitment to employee well-being and organizational stability. Shifting services to offer takeout options and drive-through services during this challenging time highlighted his agility in adapting to changing circumstances.

Leading Strategy, Culture, and Team for Success

As the General Manager and CEO at The Argyle, Michael embraces a multifaceted role that underscores his deep commitment to the hospitality industry. His extensive three-decade career equips him with the knowledge and experience required to steer the organization toward strategic success.

At the core of his responsibilities lies the company’s strategic vision. Michael leads the setting and implementation of the organizational strategy, ensuring it aligns with long-term goals. This role demands keen foresight and a profound understanding of industry trends to guide the company effectively.

Michael plays a pivotal role in defining the company’s vision, values, and culture. He shapes the organization’s ethos, fostering consistency, coherence, and comprehensiveness. Nurturing the company’s culture and promoting high-performance values are integral aspects of his role, driving strategic success.

Another vital aspect of Michael’s position is his role in team building and management. Leveraging his wealth of experience, he assembles and nurtures a dynamic group of individuals, identifying talent and fostering their growth within the organization. His ability to connect with and inspire his team is a cornerstone of his leadership style.

As a CEO, Michael is responsible for capital allocation decisions. He must make choices that affect the company’s financial health and growth, requiring a deep understanding of the company’s financial landscape and a strategic investment approach.

Effective communication with all stakeholders is a fundamental part of Michael’s role. He excels at fostering transparent and open lines of communication, ensuring that everyone involved in the organization is well-informed, engaged, and aligned with its mission.

Beyond the traditional responsibilities of a CEO, Michael’s dedication extends to his ability to connect with employees on a personal level. He recognizes the significance of celebrating their successes, offering support during challenging times, and collaboratively planning their future within the organization. This compassionate approach significantly impacts staff morale, productivity, and the overall organizational culture.

Furthermore, Michael’s commitment to staying current in the field is evident through his professional affiliations with esteemed organizations. These affiliations ensure that The Argyle remains well-informed and aligned with industry best practices.

Moreover, Michael’s participation in the UC Berkeley Hass Business School CEO program gave him insights into the organization’s cultural profile. It revealed that the company’s culture is characterized by high levels of integrity, a focus on members and employees, collaboration, a results-oriented approach, adaptability, innovation, and agility. These core values form the bedrock of the company’s culture and drive its strategic success.

Servant Leadership and Commitment to Employee and Member Well-Being

Michael’s leadership style is best described as that of a servant leader, driven by a deep passion for treating employees and teams with the same level of respect and care as guests, clients, vendors, and members. He firmly believes that the workforce’s productivity and overall impact directly reflect the organization’s leadership.

During his decade-long tenure in his current role, Michael has found satisfaction in working alongside his staff to help them achieve their dreams. Whether it’s assisting them in buying their first home, supporting their children’s education, or managing their debts, his commitment extends beyond professional growth to personal development for his team members.

In his role, he has demonstrated an exceptional focus on the impact on members. Collaborating and strategizing with the board to create funding opportunities for new facilities without passing the expense onto members represents a significant achievement. This approach has not only led to a growing member waitlist but has also maintained all-time low attrition levels, highlighting his commitment to balancing member needs with the organization’s financial health.

Furthermore, Michael acknowledges the importance of adapting and evolving in the private club industry. He understands that the longevity and relevance of such organizations depend on their ability to meet and exceed member expectations. This involves continually adapting, creating new programs, designing facilities, implementing amenities, and evolving policies to attract and retain members. His leadership is rooted in the idea that private clubs should be dynamic and responsive to the evolving needs of their members, enriching their lives and creating memorable experiences.

Michael Vlad’s Formula for a Balanced and Joyful Life

Michael’s approach to work-life balance showcases his deep understanding of the importance of connecting with one’s passions and hobbies to achieve overall well-being and happiness. It’s a philosophy he not only talks about but wholeheartedly practices.

At the core of his approach is the wise allocation of time. Michael intentionally sets aside moments in his schedule for his hobbies and interests. He recognizes that these activities are not mere indulgences but integral to his sense of self and personal joy. Making this conscious choice to prioritize his passions lays the groundwork for his balanced lifestyle.

Crucially, Michael avoids overwhelming himself by setting achievable goals for his hobbies. By establishing realistic targets, he ensures that these activities remain enjoyable and fulfilling rather than becoming a source of stress.

Consistency is a hallmark of Michael’s work-life balance. He dedicates regular time to his hobbies, such as playing tennis, to prevent them from being neglected amid a busy professional life. This consistency allows him to preserve a crucial part of his identity.

To maintain this equilibrium, Michael adeptly weaves his hobbies into other activities whenever possible. For example, his passion for fitness seamlessly aligns with his commitment to staying active, allowing him to derive joy from his hobbies without adding unnecessary pressure.

Furthermore, his adaptability is evident in his ability to make his hobbies portable. Whether it is a game of tennis or a workout, he can engage in these activities in various settings, freeing him from being tied to a specific location or context.

Michael’s enduring love for tennis, which has been with him since childhood, embodies his work-life balance. If he can’t step onto the tennis court, he easily transitions to other active pursuits like running or working out. This adaptability underscores his capacity to harmonize the demands of a busy career with his personal interests, enriching his overall well-being while staying aligned with his professional aspirations.

Core Principles of Effective Leadership and Personal Growth

Leveraging his extensive career and leadership experience, Michael imparts valuable guidance to aspiring young leaders aiming for future CEO roles. His advice centers on fundamental principles that underpin effective leadership and personal growth.

Michael encourages young leaders to actively embrace discomfort. He firmly believes that it’s during moments of unease and unfamiliarity that individuals experience genuine growth and learning. By regularly stepping outside their comfort zones, these aspiring CEOs can develop resilience and adaptability, qualities crucial for leadership roles.

Challenging the established order is another critical aspect of Michael’s counsel. He urges young leaders to question established norms and ask “why.” By doing so, they can spark innovation, drive progress, and lead their organizations toward positive change.

Effective leadership also hinges on strong listening skills. Michael underscores the significance of being an attentive listener. Actively listening to colleagues, employees, and stakeholders allows future leaders to foster deeper understanding, collaboration, and informed decision-making.

Michael views failure as an inherent part of any leadership journey. He advises young leaders to learn from failure and, more importantly, not to fear it. Setbacks and mistakes often yield valuable lessons, and cultivating a resilient, growth-oriented mindset is essential.

According to Michael, future leaders should nurture the skill of remaining calm and composed during stressful moments. This emotional stability supports effective decision-making and instills confidence in one’s team.

Michael also emphasizes the importance of having a clear vision or dream and actively pursuing it. Wandering aimlessly can be counterproductive. Young leaders should instead establish meaningful objectives and diligently work toward them, maintaining a sense of purpose.

Lastly, he encourages aspiring leaders to adopt a mindset of continuous learning. Michael’s daily reading habit and commitment to being a lifelong student of literature serve as a reminder that learning is an ongoing journey. Future CEOs should embrace their thirst for knowledge and remain open to new ideas and perspectives.

A Letter to Younger Self

Reflecting on his journey, Michael would offer wise counsel to his younger self, sharing the lessons he has learned through years of experience. He would encourage his younger self to be authentic and stay true to his values, emphasizing the importance of honesty as a guiding principle. Success, he would emphasize, is achievable but must be fueled by genuine passion and unwavering dedication.

Focusing on the positives and possibilities would be a key piece of advice. Maintaining a positive mindset can open doors to opportunities that may not be immediately apparent. Attention to detail is a crucial skill because small things often have the biggest impact. Transparency and effective communication are important for conveying messages up and down the chain of command.

A sense of urgency would also make it to his list of recommendations for his younger self. Time is precious, and the ability to work with urgency can be a powerful driver of progress. Importantly, he’d advise never to forget to have fun along the journey. Success should be fulfilling, and joy is an essential ingredient in a meaningful life.

Looking to the future, Michael’s hopes and dreams are rooted in the idea of giving back and making a positive impact on people’s lives and society at large. He aspires to contribute to the betterment of others and serve with kindness. He recognizes that the true meaning of life extends beyond individual achievements and centers around the service and influence one can exert on others. This perspective reflects his commitment to a purpose-driven life, where happiness is intrinsically tied to the positive transformation of lives he touches and the broader community.


“Do something that makes you uncomfortable on a regular basis.”

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