Retail leaders must exhibit trust and focus on educating their teams, the former chairman and chief executive of Bloomingdales has said.
Speaking at the World Retail Congress in Paris, Mike Gould told delegates: “I don’t believe people remember the numbers, they remember what [leaders] did for them.”
He said at home people show unconditional love, and while that isn’t needed at work, leaders should show unconditional support and help people to believe in themselves. “The ability to discover ability in others is the true test, isn’t that what we are here for?”
At Bloomingdales he said the two things he never delegated to others in his team were control of capital and human capital. “The fact of the matter is, the company is only as strong as its human capital”.
He added 95% of products merchandised at Bloomingdales can be found in 10 city blocks of a store so it was important to create an experience and the reason shoppers visit the stores is the staff. To do this he said staff have to feel loyal to the company and “believe they work for the best”.
He said when Bloomingdales was looking at its business during the recession, the one thing he said could not be cut was spending on staff education. “You can’t stop education because business is tough. You can’t stop that growth of your people. It’s what we are there for.”
“The challenge of leadership is how you stretch people,” he added.
He suggested retailers could learn lessons from great leaders such as Abraham Lincoln and Nelson Mandela, including being seen to be leading, being balanced and controlled and the understanding that courage does not come in the absence of fear.
“You need to have core values and never deviate from that, that’s being a good leader,” he said.