In Memoriam: Phil LaBelle

Premier 100 honoree Phil LaBelle, 45, vice president of IT strategy and innovation, was known to those with whom he worked at Chicago-based Hyatt Hotels Corp. as a gentle leader who not only forgave mistakes by his team -- he encouraged them.

"I remember the first day he came to Hyatt, and he told us, 'Don't be afraid to make mistakes. You can't learn without making them,' " recalls Hyatt IT Director Branislav Filipovic, who met LaBelle at work and subsequently became his good friend outside of work as well.

"He was just an extraordinary man," Filipovic says. "As much as he was really gifted intellectually and incredibly sharp, his greatness was also in how he treated his employees. Phil had a vision of how we should be, what we should do and where we should go. I learned so much from him, but what I learned best was how to manage people. He was a friend. He was a boss, and he was there to coach you, and even if he had to criticize, he did it in a way that he was still a man you'd want to work for anytime, anyplace."

LaBelle, a husband and father, died last August after a two-year battle with a rare form of cancer. In addition to his passion for life, he was also widely regarded as a truly imaginative and creative technical innovator with an unparalleled sense of how to implement technology to provide extraordinary and game-changing customer service.

One example is the RFID-based "bypass the front desk" initiative LaBelle led that enables preregistered guests to proceed directly to their rooms and enter using a registered credit card.

LaBelle is also credited with moving most of the hotel's software, most notably its mission-critical property management system, to a cloud infrastructure. This enables new properties to be brought up quickly and works to speed company growth overall.

"He had unbelievable vision," Filipovic says. "He saw much farther than anyone else. That was his strength. He was absolutely a unique man who lived for too short a period of time."

Next: Return to the full list of 2011 honorees


Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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