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7 Questions on Leadership with Andres Villalever

Name: Andres Villalever

Title: VP Americas & Advisor to the Chairman, Business Development, Retail & Ancillary Revenue

Organisation: Global Ports Holding

Andres is a family person and a seasoned executive leader with over 20 years of international work experience in the retail, travel/tourism and hospitality industries.

Visionary, strategic, creative, passionate and an outside-of-the-box thinker, Andres currently serves as Vice President of Americas and Advisor to the Chairman, Business Development, Retail and Ancillary Revenue at Global Ports Holding, the world's largest cruise port operator, with presence in the Caribbean, Mediterranean and the Asia-Pacific regions in more than 14 countries.

Before joining GPH, Andres worked at Carnival Cruise Line, the world's largest cruise operator, where he delivered exceptional results throughout 6 years as Sr. Director of Retail, being responsible for all retail services of the company, including in-house and partnerships, overseeing all channels & categories, and working closely with other brands.

Before moving to Miami to Join Carnival, Andres worked for Grupo Xcaret in Mexico as Corporate Head of Retail, overseeing all retail services of the group's 7 amusement parks and hotels, recognized as the best theme and water parks in the world for three consecutive years, where Andres was also recognized as the executive of the year in 2017.

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope Andres's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

Overcoming Internal challenges. I've found out that usually, the bigger challenge a person, a team or an organization faces, may come from the inside: Internal culture, status quo (that's how it was when I came), fear, lack of self-confidence, impatience, egos, lack of effective communication and internal disagreements.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

Sports education without a doubt! Since a young age, I had a chance to play competitive sports, from soccer to tae kwon do and I'm 100% sure that the situations they put you through are a rehearsal of what life is all about. You need to build a habit, have discipline, resilience and you will eventually be put to a test several times as a leader.

As a soccer player in my university, I had a chance to become a national champ in Mexico and as a tae kwon do coach, I lead a team to several state championships, including competing in the US Open.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

God comes first. I wake up and say a prayer, greet my wife and my three children, make my bed and prepare for the day.

Tennis at least 3 times a week, early morning, before having breakfast and read a little bit. Then work for most of the day until I come back home. Usually, I take my son to sports practice or I help them with their homework when I can.

Family dinner at night, and then I usually dedicate at least 1 or 2 hours to a personal project I may have outside of work. All this before getting into bed and finish my day by looking into my agenda, organizing my next day and end my day just as I started, with a prayer.

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

Very often, the solution to the bigger problems comes from listening to your team, rather than talking. If at work, go back to the basics, walk the spaces as a customer, listen to other customers and to the entry-level employees, and you will find that sometimes, the answer is at the lower level of the pyramid.

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

The 7 habits of highly effective people from Stephen R. Covey

Just as I mentioned before, I believe the most challenging situations we face as leaders, usually come from the inside, and the books defines and describes principles as fundamental truths that must be felt, internalized, and lived, to become the best version of you and a better leader.

I used to look for outside experiences that would make me learn how to become a better leader, but the book helps you realize you need to dig in deep inside to get the best of out of you and then you will start noticing the results on the outside too.

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

Be authentic and don't be afraid to pursuing your dreams, your passion and what makes you happy. If you like something, most likely you are also good at it, so try to find a way to make it your job and dedicate enough time to it. If it's not your job, then make it your hobby and your own side project, with the goal to find a way to convert it into your main job in the coming years.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

During my time at Carnival, as many organizations and people around the world, we faced tough times navigating through the Covid-19 Pandemic, where unfortunately, a big percentage of the employees were laid-off or furloughed. The remaining employees became multi-taskers and had to learn to do much more than what they were used to do before.

When the ships restarted operations and the protocols included putting employees that had been in close contact with potentially infected people, we had one ship where 90% of the retail employees were quarantined, so we couldn't open any of the onboard shops which wouldn't be fair to the guests that had been waiting months, if not years for this lifetime vacation. Several crew members from different areas emerged as leaders and volunteered to open all shops, even on their resting time and they were available to learn and be trained right away, not even having a chance to sleep, just to guarantee the guests will have a blast during their time onboard. I'm talking about stewards and bar tenders, opening a fine jewelry or watch shop. All teams involved demonstrated exceptional leadership skills by stepping up to different roles they've never experienced before, and the result was the guests gave them an exceptional score where they rate their experience.

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