Marilyn Carlson Nelson
A Study in Global High-Involvement Management and Ethical Leadership
Marilyn Carlson Nelson, chairman and former chief executive officer of the Carlson Companies, is an internationally recognized leader of a global business portfolio with a record of extraordinary success. From her early development as a leader, she has maintained a balanced and principled approach to leadership. Nelson believes that how one leads matters and that it is the responsibility of leadership to think and act with an eye toward the future. This philosophy has driven her from success to success in business and her personal life and provides an excellent example in high-involvement management and ethical leadership. Marilyn Carlson Nelson
A Study in Global High-Involvement Management and Ethical Leadership The Carlson Credo begins with the statement, “Whatever you do, do with integrity, wherever you go, go as a leader” (Nelson, as cited in Koten, 2004, p. 312). Leading the Carlson Companies, one of the largest privately held companies in the world, obviously requires tremendous leadership skills. But, for Marilyn Carlson Nelson, chairman and former chief executive officer of Carlson, it is more than being a tremendous leader; it is about the long view. “In the end, doing the right thing will always triumph. It has always been so” (Nelson, as cited in Koten, p. 312). It is her strong belief that how one leads matters and that it is the responsibility of leadership to think and act with an eye toward the future. Nelson stated, “The long-term sustainability and success of any business, or society for that matter, has everything to do with the ability of its leadership to think and act beyond the horizon of the current generation” (Nelson, as cited in Koten, p. 313). Nelson is an extremely talented business leader. “Under her leadership, Carlson has turned into a global powerhouse. From a system-wide revenue base of $22 billion when she took over, it enjoyed revenues in 2007 of nearly $40 billion” (Gergen, as cited in Nelson & Cundy, 2008, p. x). She transformed Carlson into a vibrant company and initiated a strategy that changed the corporate culture of Carlson that will impact the company for years to come. Among Nelson’s impressive list of accomplishments are that she has been named one of America's Best Leaders by U.S. News & World Report and Forbes magazine has regularly selected her as one of The World's 100 Most Powerful Women. In 2007, Ethisphere Magazine named her one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Ethics (Nelson & Cundy, 2008). She has also served on a number of corporate boards and Presidential committees on business and women in business. She has also authored a number of business leadership articles and books. When Kopf and Birleffi (2006) asked what legacy Nelson desired to leave in her wake she responded, First of all, a family that is grateful for and believes in and is willing to fight for and, if necessary, die for democracy and freedom. I would hope that the organization that I've worked so hard to build would continue to stand for something - that we could create a culture where people are proud to have been because they have a desire to be part of the solution. (para. 13) From Nelson’s leadership philosophy, numerous accomplishments and emerging legacy, it is clear that integrity, principle based behavior, well grounded values and a genuine concern for others are hallmarks of her leadership approach and personal happiness The Beginnings of a Leader
Nelson’s father is Curtis Carlson, a former soap salesman who built the Carlson Companies from meager beginnings. Nelson credits much of her success to the high standards her father set for her. She (Nelson as cited in Kopf & Birleffi, 2006) states, He was really demanding, really hard on me. If I was elected vice president, he wondered...