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The Leadership Behavior of Culture
What is a leader's greatest responsibility in building an organization?
Angela Ahrendts, former CEO of Burberry and current senior vice president of retail and online stores for Apple, talks about the importance of culture in driving success in an organization as well as helping your team members positively influence others outside of your company.
“I would say as leaders all over the world, I think that we have no greater responsibility than to build the greatest cultures that we can,” Angela says. “I always tell our teams, you're not just touching the people who you work for every day. They're going home, their touching families and friends.”
Listen as Angela discusses how a unified culture can create change in an organization that can drive unmatched growth.
Interviewer: Now let's talk about culture. Because you know that culture trumps vision, culture trumps everything, because it's behavior. So in your experience here at Burberry, what extent have you allowed this culture and this performance to begin to influence what you're accomplishing? What culture did you want to build at Burberry to really get that behavior where you wanted it?
Angela: You know again, I would say as leaders all over the world, I think that we have no greater responsibility than to build the greatest cultures that we can. And when you create that culture, I always tell our teams, you're not just touching the people who you work for every day. They're going home, their touching families and friends. I always say, we employ 9,000 people, but we touch well over 100,000 people every single day, if the culture of the company is positive etcetera.
So one of the things we did very early on, we play at about 80 countries around the world, and we were a very disparate culture. And so how do you, how do you possibly do that. So one of the early things we did was, we said we're going to put the brand. The brand has been around for 150 years, our job is to make it relevant so that it stays around for another 150 years. So maybe if we put the brand first, and we make everyone in service of the brand. And one of the first webcasts Christopher and I did, we said, "Don't do it for us, and don't do what's best for your region. Always, always ask yourself what's best for the brand, and let that guide you." And what it did was, it removed the egos. It removed self from the equation, and it was almost a higher purpose that everybody around the world could unite behind.
So Christopher created this amazing very clear vision that we could all then get behind and support. If you look at what's on the screen behind you now, we call this Burberry World. You might say it's a website. This is not a website. This is Burberry World. This was how we were going to change 150 years of brand perception, but not one department or one person could do this. So we mobilized hundreds of people around the world, tons of outside companies, and in nine months we re-launched the company, the brand through Burberry World in 50 countries, 8 languages including Mandarin, and you couldn't have done this without an amazing culture, right? Cross-functional, highly collaborative, working together, it would be impossible.
Another really fun thing that came out of it, not only was it brilliant for consumers, it was the greatest uniter for the team. And then all of a sudden we realized this amazing content that we're creating. If we're all responding to it, it's further uniting the culture around the world. So then we said, "Okay," hired a couple of more people in creative media and said, "How do we keep creating this content? How do we make it more emotive? How do we connect everybody even further?" And so Christopher is like, "Well, we need music. It needs sound, and it's got to be a British sound." Okay, well, where do we get the music?
So when you have trust, we hired a music director of course, and he goes around the world looking for young unsigned British bands. We get content. We put them up on Burberry acoustic online. They get amazing exposure, millions of people a week coming to the site, but we get a motive content. We get content that our employees all over the world can watch, can take home to their families and friends, and it shows them and helps them feel so proud of everything that we're achieving and we're doing together. That's how we keep our culture healthy and motivated and inspired.
Angela Ahrendts is the senior vice president for Apple Retail, a global leader in consumer electronics, who she joined after being the chief executive officer of Burberry, the global luxury company distinguished by its 155-year Britis...
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