Belbin Teamroles and Leadership Styles in the Fashion IndustryOctober 9, 2017
9th October 2017 by Helen Bennett
Last week I felt privilged to be given an opportunity to give a lecture to fifteen individuals from the fashion industry in China. They were on an executive education programme in Cambridge and had asked for a session on leadership styles. I revolved the lecture around Belbin Teamroles and having worked in fashion in the early part of my career (for both House of Fraser and Marks & Spencer) I have been an avid follower of fashion all my life, so I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of putting together an interesting and insightful session!
I used examples of men and women in global fashion to describe the traits of the nine teamrole behaviours, such as Miuccia Prada to represent the highly creative and unorthodox traits of the PLANT and (after a recent visit to the Victoria & Albert Fashion exhibition) I was in no doubt that Balenciaga was a detail-obsessed COMPLETER FINISHER of the highest order!
I also took a look at some of the best known business leaders in fashion such as Natalie Massanett - founder of Pret a Porter, the online designer label fashion store and at other successful leaders in the industry such as Angela Ahrendts ex Burberry now at Apple. What did they have that made them so successful? It should come as no surpise to lovers of all things Belbin that they relied heavily on a highly talented team of people around them.
The delegates were so interested in reflecting on the people they worked with - colleagues, clients, suppliers, designers - and suddenly realising why they were the way they were! Although I have trained in excess of 700 delegates from a range of businesses in China, this session really brought home to me just how much the Chinese value the western view of business, relationships and particularly the whole management and leadership element. Their focus is usually on the product and to take them away from that to focus on people was, I believe, a very eye opening experience for them all.
The issue with the fashion industry is that it is dominated by PLANTS and SUPER PLANTS; creatives who push the boundaries and often lose money without the help of a more grounded and measured partner around. I could almost see the pennies dropping as they listened intently to descriptions of typical PLANT behaviour and how challenging and difficult they could be to manage. One lady got so animated and excited by the session that she hugged and kissed me, wanted her photo taken with me and asked for my autograph! I think I had finally explained to her that it was OK to be a bit weird!
I was delighted when the Dean of Newton Business School expressed his thanks and infomed me how fascinating the delegates had found the lecture; so much so that he asked for an extended and more in depth session next year.
What a wonderful excuse for poring over yet more gorgeous dresses and fashion magazines!