Jenna Lyons was the Executive Creative Director and President of J.Crew Group. And she also became the face of the brand and a brand herself. But then...she left J.Crew after 26 years at the company. This week, Jenna sat down with us to talk about how to build an authentic personal brand and leadership style. And how to maintain that sense of identity (and hold onto your confidence) even when you leave your job.
On Learning to Manage People
Jenna: I think the biggest and sort of hardest transition was learning how to not micromanage, [and] learning how to step back and what that lever really looks like. I really thought that if something wasn't right or what I thought it should be, that me getting in there and helping and doing was the right thing, but actually that can make people feel not empowered. It can make them feel not trusted. And it makes them feel like you don't think that they can do it on their own.
On Knowing It Was Time To Leave
Jenna: There was a team...and they were having a marketing meeting. I heard them say, "Oh, I don't know if we should show her that. She's never going to go for it." And I realized that I was now potentially a stumbling block if we needed to make changes. My team and I had gotten so close and we knew each other so well that they knew how to edit before they got to see me. And I was like, "If we need to actually think outside the box and do things differently, they may never even let themselves do that because I'm here. Because they were already attuned and they're just going to make assumptions that I'm not going to be willing to change."
On Building Your Brand
Jenna: You can't fake it. You just have to do what you like, stick to yourself, and don't do anything else. Don't try to be something else or try to be something you're not. Don't copy anyone. Because...it will not work. It will be transparent and people are smart and they can like smell it.
And so I do think that if you just stick to the core of what you love and what you believe in and what you are, you will be fine. I never set out to build a brand. It was not an intent. It just sort of happened as I was trying to do what I loved.
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