The Commercial Value of Connecting through Vulnerability

Command and Control or Non-Heroic Leadership?


There has been a real drive through the Covid-19 crisis for leaders to take a command and control approach. It is a crisis after all and a military approach makes sense at first glance. However, Arne Sorenson’s whole company address made me rethink this. Bald from chemo-therapy Sorenson had to argue with his board for the right to be able to tell his employees that they would be furloughed or losing their jobs. The board didn’t want the world to see Arne looking vulnerable because it might send the wrong message – COVID has damaged us and we are further weakened because our leader is sick. However, Sorenson’s speech is an absolute masterclass and has changed entirely how I feel about the Marriott brand.

When Sorenson speaks he is honest about how bad the situation is, he is transparent about the measures they will have to take to protect people and assets, and he ends on a note of optimism, hope and belief that the brand will emerge stronger and better in a post COVID society.

It is HOW he delivers this message that makes that brilliant structure live. You can hear the passion and emotion he feels for his colleagues, employees, he not afraid for us to see his distress at the decisions and actions that have to be taken; it is authentic and human. He is speaking personally to every single person watching and he is sharing their pain.

Now, Marriott is no longer just a brand to me, it is a group of real people lead by a non-heroic leader. I am much more inclined to choose that brand because Sorenson allowed himself to use his authentic voice and be vulnerable.

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