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The new codes of leadership in the luxury industry

13.06.2018

Recent collaborations between luxury companies and brands from different worlds, like streetwear, demonstrate a new desire to modernize approaches and break the traditional standards of the luxury industry.

While this transformation is visible from the outside as brands seek to attract new audiences, millennials especially, the change in mentalities can also be seen internally, with the rise of new leading faces and new organisations.  More than in other industries, the brand’s capacity to rejuvenate greatly depends on the leader’s capacity to attract and retain talents.

Cool attitude: the new codes of 3.0 leadership  

Until recently, the luxury industry was comforted by the idea that the prestige of the brand was enough to fulfil both personal and professional values.  They believed that they were protected from the needs expressed by the new generation, willing to break codes and claiming a true sense of meaning and well-being in their lives. However, our meetings with luxury executives show a new emerging trend, with a growing importance of freedom, open-mindedness and pleasure. In other words, much like consumers, today’s employees care more about the experience and being part of something meaningful. 

Even at top level of the organisation, leaders today travel, work from home, have breaks and communicate differently. The all-knowing, close minded, expert executive working his whole career within the same field is outdated. New leaders did not all graduate from the best schools, they have diverse career histories, and have a deep understanding and appreciation of different cultures. In order to bring a strategy and a dream to life, they need to build their career as a journey and roll up their sleeves. To this extent, the LVMH group for instance, is particularly well-armed to offer diverse and multidisciplinary careers to their leaders offering rotation programs around regions and functions.

Much like consumers, today’s employees care more about the experience and being part of something meaningful.

Boris Janicek, new CEO of Ladurée, epitomizes this new generation model. After first experiences in big players of the luxury industry, he wanted more freedom and started his own company. He then joined Ladurée, which he is striving to rejuvenate while respecting the values that are part of the company's DNA.

Caring for others: leaders who gather

A growing number of leaders are now fuelled by personal values (sports, self-transcendence, work-life balance,) which exceed the mere satisfaction of achieving the company’s business objectives. The luxury industry, like other industries, prides itself with a client-centric focus. Likewise, leaders and executives should be aware of the expectations and state of mind of their teams. There is a strong demand for executives who are able to listen to their employees, attract the best talents and retain them in the long run.

Brands like Yves-Saint-Laurent Beauty owe a significant part of their success to their leaders’ ability to break down the barriers between their teams and make different kinds of expertise work collaboratively by organising hackathons, boot camps, think-tanks or even simply by designing the offices differently… Beyond strictly business-related needs, newly created ‘Chief Omnichannel Officer ‘ positions in a great number of luxury companies are a sign of this willingness to bring people together rather than dividing them and making new ideas emerge from groups. 

While not giving in to ageism, the idea of these “3.0 executives” is to give the younger generation a chance to speak their minds by increasingly including them into strategic discussions. Taking note from « indie brands » (young, innovative brands flourishing in the field of beauty, sometimes launched by very young entrepreneurs) they constitute a melting pot of new ideas, where interns and young employees are consulted and where their ideas are taken into consideration and treated with as much importance as those of their more experienced managers.

Beyond strictly business-related needs, newly created ‘Chief Omnichannel Officer ‘ positions in a great number of luxury companies are a sign of this willingness to bring people together rather than dividing them and making new ideas emerge from groups.

Recognize and share your mistakes to bounce back

Whereas skills, expertise and the specific knowledge of a market were formerly seen as imperative, the ability to take risks to stand out now becomes essential. Overconfident profiles wishing to reproduce successes from the past are not sought-after nowadays because they tend to restrain spontaneity. 

80% of the candidates we interview, mostly members of the board of directors, want to leave companies with too heavy processes that become overwhelming. Gucci is a telling example: Alessandro Michele and Marco Bizzarri managed to revive the sales of the brand by making drastic and bold decisions.

Companies are looking to recruit executives with an affinity for their brands, paving the way for profiles who are not insiders but who will be able to bring a fresh vision while conserving the identity of a brand they cherish. This approach is nothing new: for years, boards have asked for candidates from other industries. However only recently have these profiles actually been considered and recruited. The luxury industry was even obliged to do so when companies had to build digital teams, as digitals competences were skills that did not exist within the industry at that time.  And they will continue to take inspiration from other industries like the media or hospitality in order to build a true innovative customer experience.

Whereas skills, expertise and the specific knowledge of a market were formerly seen as imperative, the ability to take risks to stand out now becomes essential.

Until recently, executives in the luxury industry claimed a stainless track record and a hard-working mentality. New generation leaders are a far cry from these ideals and have become enthusiastic idea champions valuing imperfection and spontaneity. Far from autocratic executives dictating instructions and considering employees like subordinates, profiles able to gather and retain best talents are now very much sought-after. Brands and teams needs an orchestra conductor who knows how to play all the instruments but who also recognize that he/she is not an expert at playing them. To be able to trust their teams while granting them substantial autonomy and recognition is the new must-have for executives and leaders of the younger generation.