On October 21st, Stein Kruse, CEO of Holland America Group (HAG), kicked off the Albers Executive Speaker Series for 2014-15. As CEO of HAG he heads up Princess, Holland America Line, Seabourn, MANCO, and P&O Cruises Australia. Altogether, Kruse oversees 41 ships and more than 36,000 employees who provide 25 million passenger cruise days annually.
Kruse has a career in the cruise industry that stretches back to the early 1980’s. At that time the industry served one million passengers. Today, it serves 21 million passengers, so it is an industry that has seen very strong growth. Kruse believes there is now tremendous potential in the Asian market, especially in China where he predicts the number of passengers will grow over the next five years from 200,000 to five million!
In his remarks, Kruse stressed that there are certain core values that are important to HAG and him as its leader – safety for passengers, environmental stewardship, and acting with honesty and integrity. He also passed on the eight essentials he sees as needed for effective leadership:
- Maintain your integrity at all times.
- Be well informed about what is happening in the organization.
- Declare the vision for the organization.
- Show uncommon commitment to the mission and lead by example.
- Expect positive results.
- Look after your people.
- Remember that the organization is bigger than any one person and do not let your ego get in the way.
- Stand front and center and be ready to stand on the stage to communicate with all stakeholders.
Kruse also spoke about the difference between management and leadership. Management is task oriented; leadership is guiding.
In the Q&A, he talked about the complexity of serving customers from different countries and cultural backgrounds. There are many changes that have to be made on a boat as you move from one group of customers to another. HAG has much experience doing that, and he was confident they would be successful with a new group of guests from new markets such as China.
Kruse also spoke to the rise of Big Data in the industry. They collect a tremendous amount of information on passengers, and the industry is becoming better and better at using it.
When asked if leaders are born that way or can they learn it, he thought it was mostly the latter and it is hard work. There may be a few people who are born leaders, and there may be some of us who will never be effective leaders, but most of us are capable of learning how to lead, and you have to make an effort at it if you are to be successful.