Lisa Lutoff-Perlo Leads 7 Seas With Innovation & Soft Touch
She’s as comfortable navigating Twitter as she is interacting with guests from all over the world on one of her luxury ships. Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, President and CEO of Celebrity Cruises, is the kind of inclusive, forward-thinking leader needed for the 21st century.
We met on Twitter, Lisa Lutoff-Perlo and I. A fact that speaks volumes about today’s most effective leaders and their need to stay connected. Very naturally, our conversation about female leadership moved off line. Lisa had hired the first American woman Captain of a mega ship, Kate McCue, and we wanted to interview her, which we did.
But hiring Captain Kate was just one more way in which Lisa Lutoff-Perlo showed her role as an innovator and disruptor in the industry. At work, she’s always challenging assumptions, looking for more creative ways to open up the world through travel, to help bridge the many divides we are facing as people.
That powerful drive to break the rules of her field was behind the development and launch of next-generation cruise ships that Lisa led twice. Most recently, the just revealed Edge-Class, a completely new type of cruise ship experience.
Outside of work Lisa is constantly inspiring girls and women to dream differently. As she shares her own story of self-limiting dreams, you’ll see why she’s adamant about passing on the learnings. Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, a true role model for the Red Shoe Movement Hall of Fame.
Lisa Lutoff-Perlo talks about her job
What is the hardest part of your job and why?
I have the best job in the world, so it is hard for me to say there is a hardest part. I think, though, it is fair to say that there are things about any job that make it particularly difficult. For me, the hardest part of my job are the things I can’t control. Geo-political events that disrupt people’s desire to vacation in the amazing parts of the world we visit and issues that can arise when something mechanical happens to one of our ships. After all, they are vessels that, like our automobiles and despite the best maintenance in the world, can have something happen. Given that I am also the head of our entire corporate Global Marine Organization as well as President and CEO of Celebrity Cruises, I do have to ensure that our $45B of assets are running smoothly, safely and efficiently. I count myself very fortunate that I work with an amazing team of professionals who make the hardest parts of my job as easy as possible.
What aspects of the job of a CEO did you not expect as you were advancing in your career?
I didn’t expect to feel the overwhelming outpouring of support that I received when I was appointed to this position – both internally and externally. Nor did I expect to feel the immense gratitude each day for the people around me, who support the vision that we share for our guests, our crew and our brand. We live every day to open the world for those who want to join us as we explore each of the seven continents in modern luxury. We open the world so that people can experience different cultures and places. We also live every day to break down barriers that divide us. When I am on our ships and either meet our guests or watch our crew from over 60 countries taking care of each other and our guests I am filled with an unspeakable pride and grateful to know that I have the ability to create experiences that truly change people’s lives. I had not anticipated the magnitude of that. The other thing I did not expect is the opportunity and platform I have as a woman in this role to “pay it forward” and give back. That is another thing I wake up every day determined to do as I take that responsibility very seriously.
What Was Lisa Lutoff-Perlo Major Career Mistake?
Tell us about one major screw up in your career and what you learned from it?
My one major screw up in my career was in limiting my aspirations. See, my professional goal was always to be the head of sales. It’s what I dreamed of and I campaigned for each day. Then my world and dreams came crashing down when the SVP of Sales & Marketing at the time decided to move me into a marketing role. I was absolutely devastated and he knew it. I felt crushed. That I would never achieve my dream of being head of sales. But he also knew what I didn’t know. That it would be one of the best career moves of my life. He saw more in me than I saw in myself. And that’s something very hard to accept at the time when it’s happening. That perhaps this other person sees more potential in you than you see in yourself or that they can see your career trajectory much farther out than you can imagine. The rest is history as I moved from one position to another and finally as the President & CEO of Celebrity. I learned that you have to go where your career takes you, be flexible, be open for change, and never ever limit what you think you can achieve. All of the experience and knowledge I gained along the way gave me the foundation I needed for my current role and has made me a better CEO.
What is the best way to engage the executive men in an organization to support their female colleagues’ growth opportunities?
I happen to work in an organization that values diversity of all kinds. Being the only woman on the Executive Committee gives me a unique opportunity to ensure that we are always thinking about and promoting diversity. I have always said that having a woman at the table enriches and changes the conversation in a way that is powerful. I am fortunate that my male colleagues agree. And I have a VP of Marine Operations who has increased the percentage of women on our nautical team from 5% 18 months ago to almost 20% today. I am fortunate to work with people who share a common vision. And you need to hire for that.
Launching a new ship class- Lisa Lutoff-Perlo does it again!
Ten years ago you launched the Solstice Class. This March you launched the Edge Class. What does it take to bring a project like that to fruition?
Launching ANYTHING new has its own unique challenges. For the Edge launch, I had a few key objectives. This new Class of ships had to transform Celebrity and the industry. And it had to transform the financial performance of my Brand. All of the feedback and booking activity has validated that mission was accomplished. From the design to the engineering and technology, we threw away the rulebook and took away every barrier for the sake of creating the most refined ship ever built. It took vision, determination, resilience and a village of outstanding people on my team and across our organization to make Edge happen. And a Chairman (my boss) who supported us every step of the way. We did it, I can’t wait for guests to be able to enjoy the fruits of our labor, and I can’t tell you how.
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