How to be an inspiring leader
"When I went on this programme my company was at a kind of tipping point. Although I would say we are at a permanent tipping point as when you work for a high-growth company like Aesop, in the middle of an internationalisation process, every year is a bit of a reinvention. This makes life exciting but it also means that you have to constantly focus on both the immediate requirements and what’s coming up: What are the challenges of the industry? Who are the people who are going to be able to take on broader responsibilities as the business grows?
That’s why I liked the idea that this programme was about opening yourself to the future in terms of HR and management and really looking forward. I researched programmes at three different schools but this sounded like the right thing for me.
Aesop started in Australia in 1987. It opened its first store 15 years ago. I’ve been with it for 10. We’ve tried not to follow the rules of the beauty industry, but at the same time today we’ve reached a scale where there are now some rules we need to follow, and it’s not always easy. We have a team of people with incredible entrepreneurial experience who love the idea of being involved in everything, but inevitably as you grow it’s no longer possible to do everything. You need to get some solid expertise in some areas –whether it’s IT or finance or logistics – that probably wasn’t required a few years ago. So to bring everyone along on this journey you sometimes have to take a step back and think about how you can motivate people about this change. And that was in my mind when I took the programme and had the coaching that was part of it.
What inspired me most was the teaching. All of them – whether Adjunct Professor Tammy Erickson or the other speakers – had this very strong, inspirational way of talking and communicating ideas. I have done most of my studies in France, and I don’t know if it is an Anglo Saxon thing, but they had a way of sharing experience and knowledge that I found very inspirational.
Sometimes when you are presenting – or managing – you can focus too much on the content, but it’s also about demonstrating ‘how’, and that’s something that I felt strongly through the course.
We discussed what it means to be a leader today. There was a focus on how it is critical to be comfortable showing your weaknesses, showing how human you are in your leadership style. That you need to be comfortable with failing.
In terms of my management style, I think this gave me the perspective – and the time – to think more about how to inspire people rather than always needing to demonstrate that I have all the technical knowledge needed to lead them.
If you go on a course like this you need to make a decision that you will use it to change and challenge some of the ways that you’ve always done things, otherwise it is a waste of time and money.
It’s about framing yourself when you start the programme by thinking ‘I want this to impact me’. So that you position yourself during and after the course as an actor rather than a spectator, but the course encourages you to do this anyway. It’s very friendly, very open. The fact that you are constantly switching from one topic to another makes it very interesting and if you don’t connect to every moment of the course there is bound to be a moment that will touch you and teach you.
It’s a combination of things – it doesn’t happen overnight that you go on a course and the next day you wake up a different person – but it triggers a lot of things.
I’ve also used some of the reading material I was given – both on the course and afterwards – which was always excellent. I’ve used it with my team. I’ve used it in discussions with my manager.
Some of my colleagues do courses very often but I don’t. I haven’t done another course since this one and I might attach a different weight to it as a result, but it really had an impact on me.
It’s stayed with me in my thoughts – I have notes, reading materials, and I’ve got these memories."