Lessons in leadership from Trinny Woodall

·6-min read
Photo credit: Anna.Martensson
Photo credit: Anna.Martensson

Trinny Woodall has lived a multi-hyphenate life. The former marketing executive famously turned fashion columnist and then cult TV personality in the early noughties, starring in What Not To Wear with Susannah Constantine. The show became a megawatt hit and went on to spawn 11 bestselling books co-authored by the pair.

In 2017, she launched Trinny London, a hugely successful beauty brand. Here, she lets us into the lessons in leadership she's learnt along the way.

The three most important qualities for a good leader are…

" A strong work ethic. A laser-focused commitment to the business' objectives allows for a clear understanding of where the team is heading and how we'll get there. You also need relentless energy. The more energy a leader puts in, the more this dissipates into the team members themselves, promoting a hard-working and inspired work culture. Love for your team is the third powerful motivator. If a leader truly cares for, values and nurtures their team, they'll help them succeed by creating a happy and supportive environment and culture. Ultimately you'll see significant impacts on the wider business."

My personal strength as a leader is…

"My life experience. It’s what really pushed me to start the business I had always wanted to, and this has definitely resulted in a much more thoughtful approach to building Trinny London. The lessons I’ve learned from my first few decades in business have influenced my approach to everything - from fundraising, hiring, product development, to how we speak to customers.

"I’ve met more than 5,000 women over the last 20+ years and have a greater understanding of what goes on inside their heads. That experience of really understanding women is what’s enabled us to build Trinny London into a global beauty brand that speaks to real people of all ages."

Photo credit: Anna.Martensson
Photo credit: Anna.Martensson

The biggest priority for my business right now is…

"We've grown a huge amount, and we’re focusing on building out the team now. That means thinking about how we scale the business and really making sure that our philosophy, ethos and very customer-centric, community-centric approach scales with our team and revenue. We want to build the most empowering and enduring beauty brand that makes people feel good."

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

"Fully understanding our customers’ wants and needs. At Trinny London, we’ve worked tirelessly to ensure that online shopping is easy and enjoyable by creating and evolving our industry-leading personalisation tools. What’s more, we are continually investing in the technology behind these personalisation tools and the website itself to help women feel better about themselves, confident in the fact that the products they choose actually match their unique combination of skin, hair and eyes."

I keep my team motivated by…

"Both my eccentric character and raw passion for the brand. I don’t hold back in the way I communicate with my team - as with my customers via Instagram - and it creates a working environment where employees feel that they can be open and honest about how they feel and share the ideas they have.

"I motivate my team with my passion for the brand driven by the ‘invisible women’, who are some of the biggest buyers of beauty products in the UK but can feel ignored by the fashion and beauty industry. Older women are accustomed to seeing younger women represent what they want to buy when it comes to marketing and beauty brands, but not the other way around. That’s what we’re working to reimagine at Trinny London."

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

"Whether to prioritise product over tech development or tech over product development. As Trinny London experienced rapid growth, we struggled to hire at the same breakneck speed. I knew that being a digital-first business would require thoughtful investment into tech innovation, but I also wanted to ensure that the products we created were truly best in class. Finding that perfect balance was a learning curve."

Photo credit: Anna.Martensson
Photo credit: Anna.Martensson

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

"Hiring too many very qualified people too early, as I did with a business in the 2000s when I didn't trust my own expertise. When I started Trinny London it went the other way, training interns who I felt showed raw talent. This strategy worked in that early stage, then after a year the business was ready to hire a more experienced team who are helping to grow the business to the next level."

An effective leader will always…

"Inspire their team. When a team is motivated by the bigger vision and mission behind the business and the work they’re doing every day, they’re more inspired by results that bring that vision to life. At Trinny London, we’re driven by our mission to give every individual, regardless of age, the confidence to be their best, and I’m proud of the incredible team that delivers on this every day. The team understands and believes in the mission, and we work hard together to achieve that objective."

An effective leader will never…

"Spend too much time in the reeds. Starting a company is like having another child in some ways, and as a passionate leader, I am completely obsessed with doing everything possible to help my children succeed, with the assurance that every cog is turning perfectly at every moment.

"I have learnt that effective leadership means one mustn’t be consumed by every little detail. Instead, it’s about the ability to take a step back, keeping the focus on the bigger picture and overall direction of the business, and trusting the capabilities of the team to oversee the day-to-day detail. Not only does this create strong strategic value for the business, but it gives the team the space they need to grow and work creatively, which encourages innovation and spurs morale."


My role model for leadership is..

"Chrissie Ruker, the founder of The White Company. She’s a truly inspiring businesswoman. Having grown the family-owned business into a global leader and household name for all things “home”, she beautifully combines leadership, motherhood, femininity and strength."

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

"When you’re charging forward and making progress at pace, remember that you’ve got your team behind you to support you. Any strong business leader hires the best possible candidates for their team, but it’s about relying on that team as things move quickly, and not being afraid to lean into their expertise to make decisions in areas in which you are less knowledgeable. It’s also remembering that it’s about keeping them up to speed on an evolving vision for the business."

In need of some at-home inspiration? Sign up to our free weekly newsletter for skincare and self-care, the latest cultural hits to read and download, and the little luxuries that make staying in so much more satisfying.

SIGN UP

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