Simmons Leadership Blog

Marilyn Carlson Nelson: If you don't like it, fix it

Marilyn Carlson Nelson spoke at the morning plenary session. She is the chair and former CEO of travel and hospitality giant Carlson Companies, a company she transformed into a $40 billion global entity and one of the top employees to work for, specifically among working mothers.  She's been named one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Ethics and says doing the right thing will always triumph.  

She says she believes we're at the tipping point of awareness.  We're becoming more aware of the importance of women contributions as well as the well-being of the world.  She made a special shout-out to Simmons students saying that putting yourself in a predominately female environment teaches you there are no gender roles and women are the leaders.
She gave us some background about her book "How We Lead Matters."  She took her love of poetry and combined it with her experiences and moments where she had insight about leadership - failures, success, painful moments - to be saved for grandchildren, so they could learn where she came from. She said if we're going to create the future, we need to remember what the present time is worth. Should a nation go down or a civilization perish, there's always one thing in common: they forgot where they came from and the struggles they overcame 

Also talked about her first lesson in change management.  Her family was on the way home from Sunday School when she announced she wasn't going to go anymore because she didn't like it. Her father's response? "If you don't like it, fix it."  The lesson stayed with her throughout her career: One determined person can make a difference; if you don't like it, fix it.  Never compromise your values.

She ends with her company credo: "Whatever you do, do it with integrity, wherever you go, go as a leader, whoever you serve, serve with character, whenever you dream, dream with your all, and never give up."  We will strive to make a difference.

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