Following her success in heading up the community teams in New York City, Leni Zneimer has been tasked with leading the expansion of WeWork in the UK. She talks to BQ about running a business and what makes a great leader.
What is it the company does?
WeWork is a space and services provider that fosters collaboration, providing over 248,000 members around the world with space, community, and services through both physical and virtual offerings. WeWork currently has more than 250+ physical locations in 74 cities and 22 countries around the world.
WeWork is redefining success as measured by personal fulfilment, not just the bottom line. There has been a macro shift toward a new way of work—one focused on a movement towards meaning. WeWork is accelerating this movement. Our mission is to create a world where people work to make a life, not just a living.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
As general manager for UK and Ireland, I manage our community teams whilst also overseeing WeWork’s growth and expansion in these regions. Within my regions, we have 27 open locations across London, Manchester and Dublin, and a community of over 31,000 members. I am responsible for ensuring our members are looked after, our buildings are being run efficiently by our wonderful Community teams and making sure my team is focused on driving the growth and development of the business while providing members with a meaningful experience by being part of the WeWork community. I am based in our European HQ in London.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
Before moving to London to run WeWork's community team in 2015, I headed up the community teams across NYC and was responsible for supporting the company's rapid growth in the US.
I have always worked to support community, and volunteering has been an important part of my life, whether serving as a peer advisor at Boston University or as a ClimbCorps Member of the Brigham and Women's Hospital. I graduated from Boston University and joined WeWork in NYC in 2013.
Moving from New York to London has meant I’ve learnt a lot about culture. I’m incredibly lucky to have worked in such inspiring cities, both central hubs for tech, startups, media and more.
What’s really interesting, though, is that when we started out in New York, we saw lots of smaller companies and entrepreneurs join our community, and what’s really exciting to see now is that all sorts of different kinds of companies, from HSBC to Samsung and Barclays to Microsoft are taking space at WeWork. This is a big focus for us right now as a company, and it’s incredible to see these larger companies wanting to become part of the WeWork community, and I’m excited to see this progress.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
One of WeWork's core values is 'together' and that sticks with me as we really do leave our titles at the door and work as a team for our common goal. What I find most rewarding is seeing my team grow, develop and support one another, and it’s this support that I think makes a great leader.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Whilst I wouldn’t call it a challenge, something that I find interesting and I learn from each day is how to bring WeWork and our story to new markets. Making sure our mission fits a culture is extremely important to us, so I am constantly finding new ways to translate our messaging and bring our community to new environments. What works in London might need to be adapted for Manchester, for example, which then may need to be tweaked again for another market like Dublin.
Also, I need to think about the big picture and strategy/vision, but also want to stay close to the day-to-day running of the business. Having to switch between the two can be challenging in the fast pace environment we work in.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I find a change in environment really helps me release my stress. Staying in one location for a long period of time can dramatically change your mood. I find it’s a signal to then move to another area, maybe one with more natural light, or a corner with soft furniture, for example. I change my environment constantly when working.
I also really love taking time to meet with our members, hear what they’re working on and how their businesses are growing. It’s really inspiring to hear from our community – it helps me realise why we do what we do.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was younger, I imagined myself becoming either a psychologist or psychiatrist - I’ve always been fascinated by people and thinking about what makes them tick.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
I really don’t like it when people don’t clear up after themselves. Watching people litter or not tidy up when they leave a meeting room, for example, is something that drives me so crazy, I’ll clean up the mess myself or give them a gentle reminder that we're all in a community so doing our part makes a big difference!
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
We’re really focused on our growth and we are looking to expand our community of over 248,000 members. Whilst I see WeWork opening in new cities (and countries) around the world, I also see our business lines expanding, too. For example, we recently brought Flatiron coding school from the States to London, and I’m excited to see this grow and potentially expand to other regions.
Flatiron School is a coding boot camp whose mission is to enable a better life through education.
We’ve had incredible growth over the last few years, and amazing successes as a company. Last year, we decided it was time to give back to our community, and that’s why we launched the Creator Awards. The Creator Awards is an initiative that last year saw WeWork give over £1m to UK businesses and entrepreneurs.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
I wish someone told me that by taking care of myself and protecting my own health, I'd actually be a better manager, leader, co-worker. It's easy to push that aside for whatever time is left after work but flipping the two is actually more effective to take better care of myself.
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