My choice as an effective leader whom I admire is Angela Ahrendts, the new senior vice president of retail and online stores for Apple Inc. This position takes advantage of the strengths that she showed as CEO of Burberry from 2006 to 2014.
When Ahrendts arrived at Burberry she had many years of experience in marketing and merchandising. She held several positions before being hired by Fifth & Pacific Companies as Vice President of Corporate Merchandising and Design. She worked her way up to Executive VP in charge of Liz Claiborne products before leaving for Burberry.
Burberry is a luxury brand with over 150 years of tradition that had slipped in prestige. A big part of that tradition is their tartan pattern which used to be found on all Burberry’s products making the brand one of the most counterfeited brands in the world. To solve this, Ahrendts bucked tradition by removing the tartan print from 90% of the products. She also put a limit on licensing even though that had led to mass marketing success under the previous CEO, and she consolidated staff worldwide.
Ahrendts made an emphasis on innovation and selling online while drawing on her experiences at the luxury brand Donna Karan as well as her other merchandising positions. She emphasized design ironically using Apple Inc. as an example of how innovative design drives the brand’s reputation and sales. So she combined the strong British tradition of Burberry with expansion in the global market through innovative use of the Internet and social media.
Burberry’s value rose from 2 to 3 billion pounds to over 7 billion while Ahrendts was CEO. She was recognized by Forbes magazine in 2013 as the 53rd most powerful women in the world and in 2012 was the highest paid CEO in Britain. She has been featured in Vogue, and Fortune magazines as well as Forbes.
She has a great commitment to emphasizing design, innovation and customer experience as seen from her Twitter feed @AngelaAhrendts. On Twitter, she praises people ranging from Nike CEO Mark Parker to Oprah Winfrey to Ashton Kutcher to Yang Lan of China for their insights into marketing, use of social media, and emphasis on giving the customers an experience that will make them loyal and bring them back again and again. This has been Apple’s strength, so she should fit in well as senior vice president of retail and online sales.