7 Qualities Of A Remarkable Retail Leader

7 Qualities Of A Remarkable Retail Leader

This morning I was browsing retail news and catch up on things that are happening inside our industry and I came across this article from Ashley Lutz at Business Insider. This article is about the decline and impending bankruptcy that online retailer, Nasty Gal, is facing. The story includes this line, “The company has had layoffs, and former workers complained of a toxic environment.“. I remember reading about this organization a few years back and some former employees described their experience as working in an environment of “mean girls”. A culture that was built around back-stabbing, gossiping|rumor spreading, hidden agendas, etc.. And where did this culture start? It typically stems from the leader, of course.


In her memoir, #GIRLBOSS, the Founder and former CEO of Nasty Gal, Sophia Amoruso brought some clarity to where things went wrong: “I was 22 and, like most 22-year-olds, I was looking for a way to pay my rent and buy my Starbucks chai. Had someone shown me the future of where Nasty Gal would be in 2014, I would have gasped in revulsion, thinking, Oh, hell no, that is way too much work,” she wrote.

The truth is that building an effective team, establishing a brand, and leading in retail –  e-commerce and/or brick & mortar – stores takes a tremendous amount of work, courage, vision, patience, and commitment.  The challenges we experience each day are exacerbated if the leader is someone who cannot create and lead a culture that is conducive to productivity, respect, authenticity, honesty, and/or the organizational values. Leadership and the culture they drive can make or break a brand and a team – even if they are the hottest brand in town.


Retail Leadership & Culture – done right – can create a success juggernaut and the leaders that create fabulous cultures share some very key characteristics that drive excellence and an inherent commitment to supporting spectacular results from their teams. Truly remarkable leaders are also the most memorable and inspiring.  They set about their day leveraging their distinct and unique approach by leading in ways that come – for the most part – naturally to them and that resonate with their highly capable teams.  Their style and approach supports innovation, collaboration, and initiative. The great leader’s presence and charisma are centered around being of service to their colleagues and team members and they go out of their way to make their everyone feel appreciated and secure.  They embrace open dialogs, feedback, and they are enthusiastic listeners.  They observe the dynamics around them and carefully – though swiftly – address issues that could create impediments or obstacles in the business.   They are fearless and are always looking for ways to challenge the status quo and support innovation and forward momentum of their business and their team.

7 Qualities Of A Remarkable Retail Leader

  • They Are Authentic: Authentic retail leaders are inspiring and memorable because they are incredibly rare . These are the retailers that don’t play games or flaunt their title as a way to wield power and their authority.  They make their intentions and expectations clear. Authentic leaders are consistent, embrace diversity, and encourage their people to share their ideas and values that propel the mission statement of the organization. They are incredibly self-aware and fill their team with people who are smart, interesting, and equally authentic. Authentic leaders are expert at identifying the unique soft skills and talents that lie within every individual who makes up their team.  They value – highly – individuality, one’s unique perspective, and they allow their team member to have a voice that matters and these incredible leaders amplify those voices. Authentic leaders assign their team member responsibilities where their contributions will enable them to grow and manage their own level of visibility.


  • They Have High Expectations For Extraordinary Performance: Remarkable retail leaders demand excellence from themselves and the people that surround them. They remove and overcome obstacles and galvanize action so that their team can achieve truly astounding results. They proactively provide development opportunities, make sure they are filling their teams with the right people, and they dream BIG for their teams. These leaders are frequently extremely realistic and understand that through setting ambitious – but attainable – goals will help the team maintain the momentum they have for excellence. They recognize and reward great effort and results.
  • They Build Powerful and Aligned Teams: The best retail leaders intuitively, but deliberately, understands that a highly effective and productive team is more than just a group of individuals. It is the alignment of diverse colleagues with the appropriate range and complement of skills who rely on each other to get the job done. The engaging and remarkable retail leader can bring together a unique and varied team of talent who share a compelling purpose and vision and who are determined to see each other succeed.


  • They Take Time To Create Moments Of Surprise And Delight: As retail leaders we talk about creating moments of delight for our customers. Not often enough do we think about doing this for our team members. Remarkable leaders consistently create these moments of fun for their teams. Truly memorable leaders are extremely aware of their team member’s needs, the culture, and the current atmosphere of the organization.  Exceptional retail leaders can quickly “connect the dots” and are aware of the internal and external challenges that can create frustrations that are being dealt with by team each day.  Quickly, these amazing leaders will create a special moment to inspire, energize, and communicate to their team and the organization that they are aware of the issue(s) and will work to support improvement to the mood with unplanned acts of motivation and appreciation as well as a plan for guidance through the challenging time.
  • They Infuse Their Team With Meaning & Purpose That Enriches Peoples’ Lives: The best retail leaders help their team members understand that their efforts and work support a worthy and meaningful objective by making an important and necessary contribution to the organization’s purpose and strategy. They inspire and can communicate a clear and compelling story that plainly and completely shares the “how” and “why” of the organization’s vision and values. The most effective and remarkable leadership talent can translate that direction in the most effective way(s) that resonate with all levels of team member, especially the customer-facing employees, and help them understand their importance of delivering on the brand promise.


  • They Are Determined To Bring Out The Best In Everyone: Truly talented and passionate retail leaders are committed to uncovering the latent talents of their team members, their personal passion, their compelling purpose, and helping them how to see how those things fit in with the organization’s success and their professional career path. They define fairness and leadership objectivity with each member of their team by providing time, resources, and recognition that mirrors their contribution, ability, potential, and passion. They acknowledge great performance the moment they see it  – and from a balanced perspective they know when it is appropriate to tell someone where their opportunities are.
  • They Are Committed & Passionate Self-Developer: I know I sound like a broken record with this one but – seriously – remarkable leaders are passionate learners.  They are interested in and enthusiastic about learning new things or seeing things from a different perspective. They encourage and take risks to achieve unique results for the business and their team and evaluate the results objectively. They know that “what got use here, won’t get us there” and they actively seek out information that will help keep their leadership style relevant, current, and highly effective.


Founder and Editor in Chief of Excellence In Retail and 18 year retailer. I am a passionate and creative leader and coach committed to inspiring thought, action, truth-telling, solution-seeking, and dialog about how to maximize talent through identifying and creating a process around critical success factors, workplace culture, signature leadership practices, productivity, profitability, alignment of employees and company vision & values, and workplace happiness inside all retail organizations. I help create healthy, vibrant, high-performing, and highly-productive organizations that are talent magnets and focused on delivering the highest level of customer experience that will differentiate them from competition and result in long-term growth and sustainability.

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