6 Ways To “Show Up” As A Retail Leader

6 Ways To “Show Up” As A Retail Leader

One thing people learn about me very quickly is that I am a “no excuses” kind of gal. I believe we own our attitude and our commitment to life, work and the various situations we experience every single day. Does that mean I am made of stone or oblivious to the happenings around me? Absolutely not. But what it does mean is that I, wholeheartedly, believe that regardless of challenges, obstacles, issues, or frustrations I encounter each day – I owe each moment of the day it’s best chance to be great and to maximize the moments I have to be great. That is a personal and professional philosophy as both a mom and a retail leader.

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As a retail leader, one of the most challenging – but rewarding – opportunities I have is to develop this “no excuses” style of work to my team members. Honestly – retail leadership – especially at the store level – loves their excuses. How a retail leader “shows up” and commits to their role is, honestly, everything to their team and their professional reputation.

  • Tired after a bad or late night? Who cares.
  • Bad hair day? Get over it.
  • Car problems? Use Uber or Lyft to, literally, show up.
  • Have a challenging team member that is upsetting you? Deal with the issue and stop being a coward.
  • Don’t want to adult today? Get up, roll up your sleeves, and choose to be great.
  • Life is getting in the way? Use work as the one place where you have ultimate control over your results.

The attitude we, as retail leaders, display, the words we speak, the expressions we make and the sour face that we don’t think any one will notice [but of course they all do and the yentas are all talking about it], contribute to the value – or lack thereof – that we, again – as a leader, create for others on our team.  In retail we have all had experiences with great leaders and truly horrifying ones. We have learned from people who were great because of their values, style of communication, and support. And then there are those who “earned” their roles through political savvy – in lieu of talent – simply because they knew the right people, conformed in the desirable way a – usually – ineffective senior- or executive-leadership team expected – so we learn what NOT to do from them.

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Truly great retail leadership that is committed to “showing up” every day takes the focus away from better compensation, more “authority” [whatever that may mean in retail], and stroking their ego and instead turn their focus to finding their true self – what do you believe in and pursuing your dreams in a selfless, ethical, and truly authentic way – and taking your team along for the ride to excellence and success.

6 Ways To “Show Up” As A Leader

  • Attack Each Day With Enthusiasm: Yes, it’s true – there are 100 reasons why we can’t do something but great leaders find the reasons why we can and we inspire that ability in others. When we start our day by understanding that everything is unlikely to go our way but that will not stop our determination to achieve greatness we are establishing that no matter what obstacles we encounter they are nothing compared to our ambition and drive to succeed. This philosophy is contagious and you will quickly find yourself surrounded by others who have a “no excuses” attitude – and they will help weed out the excuse-, obstacle-, and drama-driven employees.

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  • Make Decisions [Even The Unpopular Ones]: Your team looks to you for direction and example. Successful retail leaders are expert decision makers. They either facilitate or inspire the dialogue to empower their colleagues/team members to reach a strategic conclusion or they do it themselves.  They focus on “making great things happen” at all times – decision making that supports and sustains progress.  Masterful retail leaders have perfected the art of influence/persuasion and therefore don’t waste their time on issues that disrupt momentum. They are committed to being objective and courageous and dealing with “issues” swiftly and fairly – again, to protect the business and their team culture.
  • Challenge Their Team Members To Think: Great retail leaders that show up and are committed to the health and growth of their team do not spoon-feed the answers to their people. They embrace and model story-telling to create context and to give their team’s their best possible shot at success. The most successful leaders understand their colleagues’ and team member’s mindsets, capabilities and goals.  They use this knowledge/insight to challenge their teams to think and stretch them to reach for more.  These types of leaders excel in keeping their people on their toes, never allowing them to get comfortable or complacent and enabling them with the tools to grow all while inspiring through enthusiasm and partnership.

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  • Play The Role: If you are not full of hot-air and feeding everyone lip-service you are going to want to put your money where your mouth is. The common perception of an effective and driven retail leader is one that is extroverted, confident, and speaks well to their audience. If you’re in a leadership role and do not see yourself as any of the above, fix it. One way is to picture in your mind a leader whose behavior you want to model – someone who epitomizes and inspires you as to what “right” looks like. Self-develop, work on the softer, quieter leadership competencies that you have seen displayed and that you admire. Practice and learn about why those things are important and how they fit in with great leadership.
  • Accept Difficult Questions & Situations: Authentic retail leaders operate without boundaries when it comes to answering questions and supporting their teams. They know that transparency and involvement breed trust,  innovation, and if they want their people to have the right context when making decisions, then it is critical to communicate the right information in the way that resonates with the individuals on the team and the aggregate team. Sharing knowledge is extremely valuable but passing the relevant information to the right people can transform a culture of mediocrity into one of retail excellence. A commitment to answer tough questions demonstrates a commitment to your people and the health of the team.

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  • Lead By Example: This one should go without saying but…alas, it doesn’t not occur consistently inside our industry. Engaging and mindful retail leaders practice what they preach and are cognizant of the alignment between their actions and words. They understand that everyone on their team is watching them and therefore are incredibly intuitive about detecting those who are observing their every move, waiting to detect a performance shortfall and surface this inconsistency. They show that great leadership isn’t perfect but it is consistent, honest, and comes from a desire to deliver excellence.


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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20 thoughts on “6 Ways To “Show Up” As A Retail Leader

  1. Thank you for posting your article. These are expectations that leaders should know but at times we tend to lose our focus. I have taken the headings and created a screen saver on my phone.

    Thanks again
    Gail Robertson

    1. Thank you so much for the comment, Gail. I agree completely! It’s in the greatest moments of challenge when we need to go back to basics that this can come in handy. I love the screen-saver idea. Brilliant!

  2. Loved this article!! I try to practice what I preach, and now its written in a proper format for all to read! Definitely going to have to wallpaper the headings, like Gail above!

  3. Using this today!!! And sharing with my peers… good reminders that if we don’t show up– others think that is okay for them to do as well

  4. Insightful and spot on !
    Both reinforcing what we can and should be doing every day and motivating on what we can accomplish when we do.
    ‘Attitude’ is something I have always believed is a choice and witness it every day in both personal and professional life.
    Attitude has a direct link to gratitude……..

    Thanks for sharing!

  5. Sharing this with my team. The best part about this article in my opinion was about accepting difficult questions and situations and dealing with it. It’s not an easy thing to do specially those who are just starting their journey as a retail leader. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Thank you Beth for remind us what it is a must to be positive and give a good example even in a difficult time . I always say that we have positive all the time and don’t forget that all team is waiting for our reaction and guidance
    Many thanks again

  7. One of the best articles I’ve read. It’s easy to make excuses. Everyone has “stuff” but a true leader leaves it at the door. When you challenge your team members to think, you empower them to make decisions and contributions that benefit the organization as a whole. Leading by example not only gives the team an idea of expectations, it also builds a sense of community among the members. Thank you, Beth, for a great reminder.

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