As part of our ambassador partnership with Retail Week’s Be Inspired programme, colleagues from across Jardine Motors had the opportunity to attend the annual Leadership Panel to hear from senior leaders in the retail sector on how they have got to where they are today. It’s all part of a bigger movement to get people thinking about retail differently, showing that it’s a dynamic, varied and interesting industry. And that to actually break down some of the barriers to career progression and help women reach their career aspirations, we need to do something practical; in this case through the power of storytelling from others.

On this year’s panel was:

  • Paula Nickolds, Managing Director, John Lewis Partnership
  • Beth Butterwick, CEO, Karen Millen
  • Melanie Eusebe, Co-founder, Black British Business Awards
  • Hannah Coffin, Founder, Needle & Thread

All were very open about their career journeys, what their strengths and weaknesses were as leaders, and their own mantras for success.

Here’s an overview of the key things we were inspired by:

What it takes to be an effective leader

means being on your best form every, single day. Yes, we’re all human and some days are more of a challenge than others. So, surround yourself with a great team who can step up and take on more when things get tough, almost relishing in the challenge.

Face up and show up

to use a retail metaphor, imagine you’re a beauty product sat on a shelf, waiting to be chosen. For all the content and product that’s inside the box, the product initially gets picked for its packaging. So, put yourself forward in a way that people will want to buy you.

Recognise green shoots in others

often leaders get to their positions because others saw talent in them when they didn’t see it in themselves. We heard anecdotal stories of senior colleagues who were prepared to take a risk and give the panellists an opportunity because theysaw green shoots of potential. So, recognise talent and skill in others, even if it’s unusual and perhaps not quite what you were first looking for. In addition, get used to not always being the best; don’t be afraid to surround yourself with people better than you in areas where you have weaknesses.

Understand your values and deal-breakers 

Often, if you want to accelerate in your career, then your inclusion and acceptance in an organisation, can be essential. Conforming to a company’s culture and set of values naturally happens as part of this inclusion over time, but that may not fit with your own principles. Look at who’s at the top as a sign of what success looks like. With experience, good leaders will adjust to the situations around them, but still maintain their authenticity. And being authentic and staying true to yourself, is vital.

Don’t waste energy 

on either being something you’re not or trying to do something you’re not good at when you have specialists around you. We heard from the panellists about, how in their roles, they are too busy to waste time and energy being something they’re not. The women who tend to get ahead, manage a balancing act between being both respected and liked. 

Being a leader is like conducting an orchestra 

Great leaders get people to move at their own speed, set their own goals, yet ultimately moving ‘en masse’, all with the same end vision in mind, and all playing together, even if they’re playing different instruments! Effective leaders set a clear vision and find people who share it, seeing their job as a partnership. They can be creative yet respectful of the needs of the business. Doing your piece of the jigsaw and not understanding where it fits in is dangerous. It’s vital to remember that you’re part of something bigger.