November 2015 Leaders & Laggards

Leadership Leader

“We can do better by being bigger.”

–Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson

logo-marriottMarriott announced that it has agreed to buy Starwood Hotels and Resorts in a $12.2 billion deal. The combined companies will control more than 5,500 hotels with 1.1 million rooms worldwide.

That’s a big deal, to be sure, but acquisition size alone can’t earn you a spot on our Leadership Leader board. No, it’s how Sorenson did it that matters.

Originally, he declined to pursue Starwood (they were publicly seeking a suitor). His reasons? One, Marriott was doing really well. Why mess with success? But as importantly, it was inconsistent with their proven acquisition strategy of $100-$200M deals, earnings accretive by second year.

Why the change? It wasn’t simply opportunistic, it was a change in thinking. Given the opportunity to become the largest hotelier in the cosmos, Sorenson reconsidered their acquisition strategy. In the face of new and material information, he changed his mind.And he still lives. Whouldathunkit? Other CEOs should give it a try…

Congrats, Mr. Sorenson; you are our Leadership Leader for November.

Leadership Milquetoast

Twitter“…diversity is important, but we can’t lower the bar.”

–Alex Roetter, Twitter’s SVP of Engineering

Twitter does a better job than most at diversity initiatives (the real ones). Roetter, unfortunately, didn’t get the memo. His statement about “not lowering the bar” means that he supports diversity as long as it takes no more effort than the current approaches to hiring and advancement.

It’s like people who say “I support the troops” when they’ve neither served nor done anything other than make that comment to show their support. It’s simply rhetoric, used to demonstrate support to others while taking no real action of your own.

In other words, it’s meaningless crap, much like Roetter’s statement.

But this month’s Leadership Milquetoast goes to Roetter for a different reason. You see, he later “apologized” for his meaningless-crap comment above. Without actually apologizing. He said the words, but blew the opportunity to actually apologize. He said:

“The comments attributed to me aren’t an accurate or complete facsimile, but they

conveyed a meaning that was very far from what I intended, which means I did a poor job communicating. That resulted in unnecessary pain and confusion, for which I am truly sorry.”So, he basically says the quotes attributed to me aren’t verbatim, but whatever I said wasn’t what I meant. I’m sorry for your pain and confusion, not for my dumber-than-dirt meaningless-crap comments.

Congratulations for that apology-that-isn’t, Alex. It won you this month’s Leadership Milquetoast.

Leadership Laggard

PREIT_logoBah Humbug!

As tempting as it was to choose a laggard from the parade of presidential debate participants, I didn’t want to go down a road that could alienate some of you. OK, that’s not the real reason (there were just too many laggards to choose from), but it sounded good.

So I picked a Christmas controversy. No, not a holiday controversy; a Christmas one. As far as I know, Santa Claus isn’t associated with any other holiday.

Get this, a New Jersey mall is charging at least $35 to sit on Santa’s lap this year.

Cherry Hill Mall’s management, the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT), claims the experience will be worth the money, and says if you don’t want to pay, you can go to one of the six other malls it owns in the Philadelphia area.

In fact, at Cherry Hill Mall, you can’t even get a glimpse of Santa without paying your money. He’s wholly contained in an elaborate North Pole scene erected without windows inside the mall’s atrium. Parents are naturally in an uproar about the reverse lap dance scheme that sounds more like a bad made-for-TV movie than a suburban holiday tradition.

Really? What marketing genius thought that was a good idea?

Or better yet, what kind of groupthink culture could have come up with the plan without ever considering the consumer blowback – not to mention the ridiculing in the press.

Accountability is one-deep, so I’m going to lay this debacle squarely at the feet of the man who owns the culture. Congratulations to PREIT’s CEO, Joe Coradino, as this month’s Leadership Laggard.

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