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In the Nation's Interest

2017 Awards Dinner Spotlight: Arne M. Sorenson

by CED August 30, 2017

Arne M. Sorenson is the President and CEO of Marriott International. You can view his bio here. He is the recipient of CED's 2017 Leadership in Diversity Award. 

What advice do you have for those who aspire to careers in leadership, or have just started to serve in a leadership capacity?

A leader should listen more than talk. I learned from my mentor, Bill Marriott, that the four most valuable words a leader can say are, “What do you think?” Leadership starts with those words as well as the humility to be open-minded enough to listen to what employees at all levels of the company around have to say about our business.  In addition, just as Bill Marriott helped me become a better leader, I think it’s the responsibility for leaders to support and develop other leaders across the company.  

Which aspect of your company’s culture has made the biggest contribution to its success?

Our culture is based on our founder’s philosophy – “Take care of associates and they will take care of the customers.”  This culture - focused on the well-being of our associates – is really what has kept this company successful and thriving all these years. We are a hospitality company and the core of our business is taking care of our guests and we believe that you can only do that well first by taking care of our associates.   

Has your company spearheaded a particular philanthropic or societal initiative that you would like to share? 

Part of what makes our company stronger is our commitment to serve the communities where we do business.  We call it our “spirit to serve our communities,” which is demonstrated through financial contributions, in-kind giving and employee volunteerism.  Globally, in 2016, our associates volunteered 720,000 hours.  Our properties collectively focus on five areas of local giving: Shelter and Food, Environment, Readiness for Careers, Vitality of Children and Empowering Diversity. Our worldwide network of more than 100 Marriott Business Councils empowers hotel leaders to work together to drive large-scale business initiatives, including sustainability and social impact.  For example, together with our Houston Business Council, the company is working to provide support to employees who may have been impacted by Hurricane Harvey.