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Celebrity Cruises CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo: ‘Become A Steward Of Your Own PR Campaign’

In this edition of our Corporate Competitor Podcast, leadership speaker and storytelling expert Don Yaeger sits down with longtime CEO of Celebrity Cruises, Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, to discuss the importance of self-advocacy in corporate culture. 

Lisa Lutoff-Perlo’s ascent from an entry-level sales position to leading a multi-billion-dollar global company is a testament to her relentless drive and determination. In the years leading up to the pandemic, Lutoff-Perlo led Celebrity Cruises to historical financial performance. Her cruise line then led the industry back into service in June 2021, when Celebrity Edge was the first ship to sail from a U.S. port.

The first woman to become president and CEO of Celebrity Cruises, her success didn’t come easily, requiring an incredible desire to overcome adversity and challenge the status quo of a male-dominated industry and company. She shares her stories and lessons in her new book, Making Waves: A Woman’s Rise to the Top Using Smarts, Heart and Courage

In our conversation, Lutoff-Perlo said that one of the most overlooked competencies among those who wish to lead an organization involves self-advocacy. It was a lesson she learned firsthand when the board chairman turned her down no fewer than three times for a promotion to president and CEO—despite receiving high praise from the departing CEOs. When she asked the chairman why he kept saying no, he said he hasn’t seen her do enough.

“That’s when I realized we all have to be stewards of our own public relations campaign in our company,” she explained in the podcast. “I thought if I did a great job, I’d get noticed. I learned that’s not what happens. It wasn’t comfortable for me. I’m much more of an advocate for others than I am of myself. So it wasn’t natural for me.” Nonetheless, Lutoff-Perlo found ways to work more closely with the chairman and CEO, and eventually, his “no” turned into “yes.”

Lutoff-Perlo’s successful stewardship of Celebrity Cruises has come about while she also increased the percentage of women on their bridges from three percent to 33 percent. Her messages for those seeking leadership roles in high EQ companies is clear. It includes:

• Why you should always plan to manage two levels up rather than one.

• How to get others invested in your success by asking them for help.

• Hiring for cultural-fit first and competence second.

• What New England Patriots great Tom Brady taught her about sports and business.

“I believe that running a business is a team sport,” noted Lutoff-Perlo, a big admirer of gymnast Simone Biles’ courage and honesty about mental health. A native New Englander, Lutoff-Perlo has followed Brady’s career with great personal interest.

“I have a chapter in my book called, ‘Watch Me Prove You Wrong,’” she explained. “What I love about Tom Brady is that he had that mindset his entire career even after six Super Bowl rings with the Patriots.”


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