Bringing Leadership to the Table: A Darling Dinner & The Art of Hospitality


By: Lacelliese King

When it comes to social gatherings, there are few I find quite as pleasant as a truly well-executed dinner party. As a guest of one such recent occasion, I gathered around a table with a group of a dozen other women, most of whom I had never met, for an event inspired by Darling Magazine’s “Darling Dinners.” Hosted by a friend who is accomplished both professionally and in her ability to throw a fabulous fête, the uncommonly lovely evening among strangers owed its distinction to an ideal demonstrated by our gracious host: the art of hospitality.

Delicious food, good conversation, and kind-hearted company: these opportunities to pause and gather with intentionality are occasions that many of us desire, but require an investment of our time, an asset that seems to be more and more elusive. In a success-driven culture functioning at a breakneck pace, deliberately making time to cultivate hospitality feels like a luxury – and often falls short to other priorities.

However, the art of hospitality also shares a set of profound values practiced in another “art” form that most would agree is both worthy of development and essential to personal and professional success: leadership.

If this is the case, then perhaps hospitality is an underestimated pursuit worthy of our time and indulgence. In reflection on an exceptionally refreshing evening, here are four practices (among many others) shared by successful leaders and hospitable people:

  1. They take initiative in building new relationships. Pitching a story or hosting a dinner party: sending an invitation to engage acquaintances can be such an exercise in risk-taking that it is tempting to forgo outreach altogether in favor of social certainties. For many of us, it’s neither easy nor natural to facilitate relationship-building. Too many instances exist, therefore, in which a sort of self-protectionism leads to impossibly, and unproductively closed-off professional (and social) circles. And in business, a protectionist mindset can result in organizational stagnation, content redundancy, and economic sluggishness.IMG_3073Good leaders and hospitable hosts take initiative in building relationships because they recognize that the potential benefits far outweigh the risks. The consensus that evening was not only one of overwhelming appreciation for our hostess’ hospitality, but for her vision in bringing together strangers who would have otherwise not had the opportunity to connect.
  1. They further a plan, not an agenda. From the hearty quinoa stew to the soft candlelight glow of aptly-placed votives, our hostess’ preparation made for a warm, welcoming evening for her guests. And with a few intentional, yet thoughtful conversation prompts designed with the essence of a Darling Dinner, our hostess sparked table discussion that was organic and inclusive, but still in the spirit of her purpose for the gathering. Leadership comes to the table with a plan, recognizing that in order to reach a goal, agenda-pushing is rarely effective. Instead, thoughtful preparation is what truly makes a difference. 
  1. They invite a variety of perspectives to the table. I love the fluidness and energy of a cocktail hour, but what made the evening distinctive was the act of formally sitting down at a table and sharing a meal with strangers. Artfully-placed seating cards enabled enlightening and engaging conversation that canvassed an eclectic mix of backgrounds and viewpoints. I think we all grew a little, and even some new friendships were made that night. Whether filling a table with friends or colleagues, those who excel in the arts of hospitality and leadership surround themselves with other people who see the world through different experiences and perspectives – not just those who affirm their own viewpoints.IMG_4884
  1. Most importantly, they cultivate gratitude. Much has been said lately about the “power of thank you,” and the role of gratitude in one’s emotional and physical health. At its most fundamental, practicing the art of hospitality creates an opportunity for an abundance of mutual gratitude between host and guests. Likewise, good leaders know why and how to show gratitude; where and to whom to give credit; and, finally, when to be a gracious recipient of thanks.

Thank you, Britt, for allowing me to be part of your beautiful, generous practice of hospitality and leadership!

Lacelliese King founded King PR Studio after a seven-year career in Washington, DC. Her upbringing in Jackson Hole, Wyoming instilled her lifelong appreciation of art, culture, and the outdoors, which inspires her approach to balancing creativity and design within the traditional idea of “public relations.” Lacelliese’s life went to the dogs in 2013, when her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel joined the family. Ever since, she has been a lint-roller junkie and a supporter of dog rescue initiatives. She and her husband live in Birmingham, Alabama and Jackson Hole, where they love to downhill ski.

Follow Lacelliese’s work at & @KingPRstudio



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