Lessons in leadership from the founder of the Black Skin Directory

·5-min read
Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

Success in her own career was never enough for Dija Ayodele. Though she received great acclaim asa highly respected aesthetician and skin health expert in her London based clinic, West Room Aesthetics, she wanted to do more, change more, make more of an impact.

It is why she founded the Black Skin Directory in 2018 to better connect people of colour to professional skincare and has since become a national spokeswoman for improving product ranges and aesthetic opportunities for all skin tones - leading diversity initiatives within many leading beauty brands.

Here, she shares what she has learnt from her years of leadership...

The three most important qualities for a good leader are…

"Firstly, I think it’s important to lead with authenticity and vulnerability. I’ve often been accused of wearing my heart on my sleeve, but that is where my magic and passion lies. I believe this makes for more meaningful conversations that inspire change.

Leaders should also be able to listen. It’s in listening to people and world around us that we can lead authentically and make sound decisions. To take people on a journey it’s crucial to make them feel seen and heard.

I also think good leaders allow room for the people around them to grow into the best version of themselves. I love to see people flourish and gain more confidence in their roles and purpose and as a leader it’s important for me to cultivate an environment where this is possible."

My personal strength as a leader is…

"I am not afraid to act and make courageous decisions, even in the face of fear."

The biggest priority for my business right now is…

"Our guiding words are expansion and impact. Ensuring that we continue to expand both our team and business offering to create and provide services where Black women in beauty are more visible both as consumers and professionally within the wider beauty industry ecosystem. This is how we create more meaningful inclusion. The education of skincare professionals is key to an inclusive beauty industry so Black Skin Directory is dedicating huge effort to creating a virtual skin of colour global education platform to launch in 2022."

The economic outlook may be uncertain, but I’m mitigating risk by…

"I am highly data driven and I make decisions based on 80-90% data and the rest on gut. I look at risk from all angles which means I must stay creative, agile, and ready to move at speed. Keeping spend low is a priority, so I’m constantly asking ‘how can we achieve the same or higher, for less.’ Sometimes it’s not always possible but by staying curious and asking questions we are able to explore all angles and end up with better outcomes."

I keep my team motivated by…

"Checking in on them regularly and what’s happening in their lives outside of the business. We aren’t always together in the same place all the time, so we do life checks before our weekly team meeting. This works well for us, especially for a young team where something like a relationship breakup can affect performance at work. Also, our work can be quite demanding with peaks and troughs of activity. We just recently launched by debut book Black Skin, The Definitive Skincare Guide and it was all hands-on deck, working early and late for several weeks, so during quiet periods we run a flexible ship with late starts, work from homes, long lunches - so long as targets are being met, I’m fairly easy. As much as possible we try and do whatever we can as a business to help relieve any personal strains.

Again, because I like to see people become their best selves, I always look at ways in which I can expose employees to projects and activities that are in line with their own personal development targets. That way, we’re all pulling in the same direction."

The hardest decision I’ve had to make as a leader was…

"I find letting go of people hard, especially when I have great personal relationships with them, but if they are not delivering then they are pulling everyone, including themselves and the business down. The key thing is to cut ties gracefully."

The worst mistake I’ve ever made as a leader (and the lessons I learnt from it)

"Whenever I ignore my gut feelings and rely too much on the opinions of others, I’m on a path to make mistakes. I’ve learnt about this the hard way! Over the years though, as I’ve gained more experience, I’ve learnt to stand in my truth and honour my intuition, it has never let me down. I think it’s still important to seek advice, but not to let it drown your inner voice."

An effective leader will always…

"Be willing to get their hands dirty and lead from the front. You’ve got to walk your talk. Additionally, for me, I find I am one hundred times more effective when I take periods of retrospection. Assessing the good, the bad and noting where improvements can be made is important for growth as a leader."

An effective leader will never…

"Let their ego get in the way and will know when to step aside. I firmly believe that pride comes before a fall, so being self-aware enough to know when you are making decisions that are more about satisfying your ego than about the success of your team and business is crucial."

My role model for leadership is…

"There isn’t any one person but rather there are snippets of the way different people lead that I respect. For example, I love how Obama uses education and collaboration to foster change. I love how Cicely Tyson honoured her voice to only portray positive images of Black women on screen at a time when acting options for Black women were second rate. I love how Beyonce is the queen of reinvention. I love how the women in my family fear nothing and no-one. The steadfastness of the Queen is inspiring. These are all qualities when put together, make up a good leader."

The one piece of advice I’d give to a new leader is…

"Foster a culture of experimentation where you can fail fast, learn quickly and pivot as and when necessary, especially in a fast moving and uncertain world."

You Might Also Like

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting