Hospitality and Leisure
president and CEO
Norwegian Cruise Line
At a time when the cruise industry faced numerous difficulties, Kevin Sheehan stepped in to lead Norwegian Cruise Line, a company suffering from self-inflicted wounds. Taking the helm as president and CEO in 2008, he and his team recast the company’s culture to one of discipline and accountability while instituting profitable, innovative changes.
Years of negligent mismanagement needed to be undone. Sheehan and a hand-picked team brought in new ways of thinking, and through their shared vision reinvented the company. They engaged employees in the change process and improved relations with travel agents. They also refined, expanded and rebranded the company’s signature Freestyle Cruising concept and built innovative new ships with amenities that support the concept while updating older members of the fleet to modern standards. Two new ships were recently commissioned with two more under construction.
Sheehan and his team’s approach was simple — formulate a plan that gets the key points right, then communicate and execute. He says the team functions as an orchestra mastering a symphony, while his own style is to continuously share ideas and challenge everyone to better themselves and the company.
Sheehan turned around previously one-sided company practices, improving communication and increasing engagement. For example, a bonus program was altered so that, instead of penalizing employees for not meeting unknown goals, yearly targets were established that allowed ample time for achievement. Similarly, non-bonus-eligible employees who once shared quarters with six others, were given single cabins and amenities such as Internet, refrigerators and TVs. Sheehan also makes a point of spending time with all the crew members, absent supervisors, for candid views and ideas for improvement.
As testimony to the success of the effort, Norwegian launched a successful IPO in 2013. Ultimately, Sheehan’s vision is not to be the largest cruise line, but the cruise line of choice for all.
Stephen P. Weisz
president and CEO
Marriott Vacations Worldwide Corporation
In 1996, Bill Marriott recognized Stephen P. Weisz’s leadership abilities and asked him to lead Marriott International’s timeshare division. At the time, Weisz was vice president of brand and marketing. The Cornell University graduate, who started with the company as an entry-level hotel employee, accepted the challenge and built an organization that today operates 62 properties across North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific.
Weisz’s spirit and attitude have enabled him to make tough decisions when business conditions turned downward, as they did in 2008. He still guides the development of employees and future leaders, however, and maintains a work environment that’s attractive to top talent. Noting the company isn’t just “sticks or bricks,” he nurtures a corporate structure that encourages everyone to take chances on new ideas and, if needed, to “celebrate failure” by finding positive lessons in the experiences.
In 2011, Weisz spearheaded the division’s spin-off to form Marriott Vacations Worldwide Corporation (MWV), a stand-alone, publicly traded company. With Weisz as president and CEO, the company’s stock tripled.
He also lead the charge on restructuring the company’s market approach, implementing a points-based timeshare product that increased sales volume and allowed the company to expand its offerings to include new options for travel and entertainment. The change also enabled the company to more efficiently focus resources on fewer new projects.
Philanthropy is close to his heart, an endeavor encouraged among employees. He is chairman-elect of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, a group he has served for 20 years. Since 2012, MVW’s corporate and U.S. resort employees have raised nearly $1.5 million for the network.
Additionally, Weisz chairs quarterly meetings of the Culture Steering Committee where company culture, goals and initiatives are discussed. He also implemented the annual Associate Appreciation Week and Spirit to Serve Day, encouraging employees to volunteer at worthwhile organizations around the world.