Leading with Smarts, Heart, and Courage

Apr 22, 2024
Making Waves, A Woman's Rise to the Top Using Smarts, Heart and Courage by Lisa Lutoff-Perlo

How do you rise from an entry level position and make it to the top of a multi-billion dollar brand using smarts, heart and courage?


If you keep reading, you'll learn about how Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, Vice Chairman of External Affairs at Royal Caribbean Group and former CEO of Celebrity Cruises for nine years, achieved that.


Recently, I had the opportunity to moderate a conversation with Lutoff-Perlo during an online leadership event hosted by the Harvard Business School Assocation of Boston. And in preparation for our conversation, I read with great interest Lutoff-Perlo's book, Making Waves, A Woman's Rise to the Top Using Smarts, Heart, and Courage, which was released in February 2024.


Growing up in the coastal town of Gloucester, Massachusetts, where her parents owned a coffee shop and later restaurants, Lutoff-Perlo was exposed to the hospitality industry and the importance of dedication, commitment and customer service early on.


Lutoff-Perlo's career journey demonstrates how you can advance to the highest levels in your career with a  strategic mindset, empathy and caring for others, and courage to face setbacks, rejection and hardships.

Key learnings from our conversation:

1️⃣  The importance of caring deeply for people and putting others first

Lutoff-Perlo's success exemplifies that excellent financial results and genuinely caring for people are mutally inclusive. This was no small feat at Celebrity Cruises with over 1 million guests annually and 20,000 employees from all over the world.

2️⃣ How to use your superpowers to set yourself apart from other leaders

Lutoff-Perlo explained how the "boomerang" method of leadership was her superpower: you get what you give.  She led her team by giving them her best, and they delivered their best, in turn.

3️⃣ Why you don’t always need a linear plan

When Lutoff-Perlo started her career in an entry level door-to-door sales position she never had the idea to one day become CEO. Rather, her dreams, thinking and experience expanded as she stayed open to opportunities to advance her career and grow. She explains that staying open gives you more opportunity to achieve greater things.

4️⃣ The value of looking at failure and setbacks as success in progress

In 2007, when Lutoff-Perlo was in a leadership role in hotel operations, she had an experience that she described as "catastrophic." She explained, "Everything that could go wrong, did." But she took full responsibilty, asked for help from her team and didn't leave the ship for seven weeks, giving new meaning to "Don't abandon ship." Rolling up her sleeves to clean up the mess with her team, earned her more respect than at any other time in her career.

5️⃣ Why perseverance, resilience, and tenacity are critical to achieving success

Lutoff-Perlo was twice turned down for the CEO role. Initially, she felt resentful but decided to re-direct her mindset in a positive way. She recognized that you don't always get what you want and things can be ambiguous. Her mantra became, "Watch me prove them wrong." She perservered until she turned the "no" into a "yes." Lutoff-Perlo became President and CEO of the Celebraty Cruises brand at Royal Caribbean Group in 2014.


My experience as an Executive and Leadership Coach was richly enhanced by my conversation with Lisa Lutoff-Perlo.  How refreshing to speak with a leader who is focused on excellence and outstanding results, including financial peformance, while also sharing her humanity and caring so deeply about people. You can learn more about Lutoff-Perlo and her incredible career and leadership journey in her biography Making Waves, A Woman's Rise to the Top Using Smarts, Heart, and Courage.



Stephanie Hessler is a High Performance Coach. She helps high-achieving corporate leaders and business owners who want to rapidly advance their careers and create a vision others want to follow, but have hit a roadblock. Therefore, Stephanie guides her clients through a transformational coaching journey called the BLISS Accelerator to turn their goals and dreams into reality. Previously, she worked in the investment business, including on Wall Street, for sixteen years. She earned her MBA at The Wharton School and her BA at Wellesley College. 

Ready to play a bigger game?


Stay connected!

Get our weekly Inspired Insights plus invitations to complimentary masterclasses and events delivered to your inbox.

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.