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What would the beauty and cosmetics world be without the glam, the hype, the pizazz? Most of us are familiar with the daily claims and celebrity associations; it just wouldn’t be beauty without it. But it’s easy to forget that behind the marketing and glossy campaigns there is serious business, some of the largest conglomerates in the world are in the beauty industry and led by some of the most successful CEOs.
The Reputation Institute (RI), the world’s leading provider of reputation measurement, management and intelligence services recently named Esteé Lauder’s president and CEO, Fabrizio Freda, as one of the world’s most reputable leaders in their CEO Rep Trak study; the world’s largest reputation study of its kind. The study is based on over 28,000 individual ratings gathered in the first quarter of 2018 across the G15 economies and provides unique insights into the impact of CEO reputation on company perception and shareholder support.
“The rubric for what it takes to be a great leader is quickly shifting,” said Stephen Hahn-Griffiths, Chief Reputation Officer at Reputation Institute. “Assessing a CEO’s performance based solely on financial returns is no longer enough. There is a new era emerging in which the intangibles of reputation are driving political, social and economic change, and giving CEOs reason to reconsider their role as a leader. To be relevant as a contemporary leader today, you need to be a CEO with conscience.”
Being a CEO has always been a tough job. Now the increasing public demand for leadership accountability and responsibility has spilled over into the corporate world and the expectations for the role of a CEO go far beyond just the financial report. The evolving social and political atmosphere requires that CEOs address not just economic issues but act responsibly and ethically on environmental, social and political issues too.
A lot of work has been done over the last number of years to isolate what characteristics make a successful CEO. Replacing a CEO can be an expensive and disruptive, so boards are keen to take advantage of any method that can make selection an easier and more effective process.
And for someone who sees themselves in the role? It takes dedication and a lot of hard work and commitment. It’s not for the faint hearted.
A good CEO knows how to build relationships among clients and co-workers, knowing that relationships are the foundations of loyalty. A loyal team looks good for the CEO and the company. Once the key decisions have been made and the course set for the company they must get employees and other stakeholders on board. Successful CEOs develop a keen sense of what drives others and can align them towards the goal. “I am proud about the fact I am running a company that has over 30k employees” explains Mary Dillon, CEO of Ulta Beauty, “We are creating opportunities for women and men, creating jobs, 92% of our employees are women”.
Ulta Beauty has built a fast-growing hair and cosmetic empire in America’s strip malls. Now it’s up to CEO Mary Dillon to run the brand into a national power—while fending off newly aggressive competitors. Read more about it in this month’s issue. (Photo of Dillon at Ulta’s headquarters in Bolingbrook, Illinois by @rebeccagreenfield for Fortune) @ultabeauty #ultabeauty #marydillon #makeup #style #beauty
They are confident about confronting any challenges but realistic enough to recognise their own limitations. They set goals that are high, but remain aware of the challenges. They take risks, but calculated ones. Risk is a part of any business and sometimes it’s necessary for a company to move forward. A good CEO recognises that sometimes a wrong decision may be better than no decision at all and has enough personal insight to recognise the difference between confidence and arrogance. “At the end of the day, the CEO has to be somebody who will take people and their teams into unchartered territory” says Karen Harvey, chief executive of New York-based executive search firm Karen Harvey Consulting.
When managing change they will invite input from others but do not accept general consensus as the means for decision-making. “My dedication to developing, mentoring and boosting leadership is unwavering.” says newly appointed Elemis President Noella Gabriel. “With the team, I’m committing to tripling the business in next 3 years. We are taking Elemis straight to the top. I’m going to take my 30+ years of experience in the beauty space and use laser focus to execute on every single point in our strategic plan”.
They make their own decisions, but listen to the opinions of others, often building a team of skilled and trusted individuals around them who will challenge them and present other views before making key decisions. Speaking of the appointment, Elemis CEO Séan Harrington said, “Together as a management team, a brand and a family, we have incredible momentum, success and opportunity; we are leveraging all of this to claim our place as a global leader in skincare. We are all excited to see Noella continue to support the Elemis world and bring to the US the same tenacity, energy and bold leadership that she has given to the company for nearly three decades.”
Decisions are made with speed and conviction and, although they may not be right all the time they become recognised for being more decisive. And they do so consistently. Data gathered from the CEO Genome Project found that people who were described as “decisive” were 12 times more likely to be high-performing CEOs. Interestingly, CEOs with higher IQs often find it more difficult to be decisive. While their decisions may be good, their need to arrive at the perfect answer can hinder their ability to react quickly and can make them appear indecisive, sometimes resulting in a build-up of frustration in their teams. This can lead to a loss of talent or a hampering of progress for the company.
Creating a healthy and collaborative environment prepares the next generation, not just in the one company, but in the line of work. So a great CEO provides the necessary tools and direction for employees to succeed. They know their employees and their needs; if an employee has issues outside of work it can undermine their performance, so good CEO’s understand that life happens and mistakes are made, even by the best, and sees events as an opportunity everyone to learn. They can read people well and adapt their style accordingly.
A critical trait is adaptability. CEOs who can adapt to changing circumstances are more likely to succeed as they have to deal with unique situations that require skilful responses. Most CEOs are aware that they have to divide their attention between short, medium and long-term perspectives. But those regarded as more adaptable spend more time, up to 50%, on the long-term view compared with an average of 30% for most others. This long-term view is seen as the reason why great CEOs pick up signals earlier and can spot changes and trends and make strategic adjustments to take advantage.
The role of leadership is complex and given the changing nature of business and there can be no perfect list of qualities for a great CEO, but adaptability, engagement, decisiveness, confidence and the ability to build relationships are all core qualities for a great beauty CEO.