Building a company of passionate and energized people is at the core of L’Oréal’s mission and something we work hard at achieving every day. Within the walls of the Garnier brand in the Mass Market Division, you can find many people who also share this drive.
This is where we found Simone, General Manager of Garnier. With over 16 years of experience, we knew that Simone would be excellent at helping us understand not only how to be a good leader but the impact that bad leadership can have on an organization. Simone took the time to sit with us and give us his six key pieces of advice on leadership and what it means to be a true leader.
Leadership is a Responsibility, Not a Power
When you start working in the business world, you’re often led to believe that by climbing the corporate ladder you will eventually be in control, that you’ll have power over others… but the truth is that leadership is much more about responsibility than power. Being a leader means having a huge responsibility on your shoulders to guide a group of people to achieve results and grow as a team. This means finding the right balance of listening, coaching, building a vision and a long term perspective, while still helping your team achieve short and mid-term results. Leadership is to walk the talk.
Seek and Accept Feedback
Another element that I think makes a good leader is the ability to seek and accept feedback. A few years ago I was running a large team in a cluster of countries in the Nordics, with very different cultural expectations of what a leader should do compared to what I was used to in Italy. After about one year and with very positive business results, I felt I was doing well in my leadership role. One of my mentors (which happened to be Swedish) came to visit for a business review, and after a day of meeting he asked me for a short one to one. His feedback was shocking: in his mind I wasn’t acting as a good leader for my team. He told me I was too directive, too “strong-headed” for the Nordic culture. My first reaction was complete rejection. It all became clear when I asked my team if they felt the same as my mentor, and they did. They just never had the courage to tell me, because they assumed I wouldn’t have listened.
If you want to be a good leader, you need to show people that you are open to hear and accept their feedback. Additionally, you need to seek people that are open to giving the gift that is a truthful feedback.
Hire People Better Than Yourself
True leaders recognise and share their flaws and limits. They don’t try to be the best at everything, but they hire talents that can help them overcome their limits to create something amazing. Personally, I look for three key elements in people I recruit for my team:
Entrepreneurship: the passion and desire to make something happen. I believe that with the right attitude, talent can be learned.
A Curious, Creative, Open Mind: life is a very boring place if we only see what’s in front of our eyes and we close our eyes and ears to the others
Sense of Humor: we live in challenging times. Being able to crack a joke and stepping out of the “stress-zone” can make a big difference in finding a great idea and banging our heads on a problem for weeks. Also, it’s great to be around people that like to have some fun!
In complex and dynamic businesses such as L’Oréal, one of the key skills of a leader is to quickly switch to different perspectives. You need to be able to understand and manage a specific project in great detail, but at the same time understand its scope within the greater purpose of the company, the industry, or even society as a whole (imagine the many projects we have to reduce our impact on the environment and improve sustainability of the beauty industry). Being able to step back and see the big picture is a key skill to build a sharp vision for your business and your team, and a great help when it comes to prioritizing. It also comes in handy when you apply it to yourself and your own development. Who are you really, today? Are you in the path that will lead you where you want to be ten years from now? If not, what can get you there?
Build a Shared Vision
At Garnier Italia we call it “Cuore Verde” (Green Heart). We come from different backgrounds and personal histories, but we have in common a strong belief that we can change the beauty world for the better by building a more sustainable, green face of this industry. I strive to build teams of talented and diverse individuals, but it’s hard to work together towards a common goal if we’re inspired by common values and vision. I believe that part of good leadership is to clearly define with your team a path and the principles that we will stand by.
Lastly, Focus. In leadership roles you have a virtually infinite amount of stakeholders. People are always going to ask for things, often very valid things, that they think your team should be doing. In my experience, drastically reducing the number of things we do, or deliverables we commit to, helps improve performance. With fewer distractions, we can achieve bigger goals.
In my mind, being a leader doesn’t mean knowing everything, or that the things I say must be right just because I say it. Leadership is not status, it’s listening, guidance, support and vision. It’s about distilling big ideas, sharing them, and having the courage to stand your ground when the storm hits. This is the kind of leader I strive to be.
Being a leader should look different for everyone! At L’Oréal, we believe in the power of diversity and giving space to our people to be their true selves at work. If you think you’d like to work in a place where you are free to be you, come join us!