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Where’s WALDO…I Mean…Leadership?

Remember those great “Where’s Waldo?” books?  Finding Waldo was always a challenge.  Seems to me that strong Leadership in retail is often just as hard to find.

The trending topics and areas of concern in the retail industry are always consistent.  Companies struggle with a lack of employee engagement, a lack of synergy in our multi-generational workplaces, a lack of compliance on key standards and inconsistency in execution.

What about the lack of leadership? Should this not be our priority and focus?  After all, it’s the number one reason all of the problems above exist in the first place.


There is no shortage of great managers in our industry who have honed their skills over years, most of them starting on the front-lines and rising to positions in Store Management, District/Regional Management or Senior Management. These are managers who know the business inside and out; they are great sales managers, operators and merchants who understand how to run a retail business successfully.

Ultimately, our role as a retail operator is to take the corporate strategy and execute it flawlessly through our people.   Our success in doing this requires the co-operation of a large group of people, yet we continue to struggle with all the concerns listed above.

Why? Maybe it’s because we are great managers, however, we are not Influential Leaders.  An Influential Leader is someone who inspires and moves people to action.  They influence attitudes and behaviours on a consistent basis.

I want you to think of great brands out there that are extremely successful.  Think Apple, Starbucks, Nike and others.   These brands do an incredible job of influencing behaviours. Why?  Great brands have both rational and emotional attributes. The rational attributes are qualities like great price, quality, taste, etc.   But what makes these brands hugely successful is that they have emotional attributes that make you FEEL something you value.  Maybe they make you feel cool, fit or even sexy.   We connect with these brands because we connect with their values and how these brands make us feel.

A personal brand is no different.  You need all the rational skills to do your job effectively, such as organization, planning, communication and operational skills.  However, what makes you loveable? What is it about your personal identity that stimulates a meaningful emotional response in others?

If you’re not sure, I want you to think about what you value.  What is your purpose? Are you passionate about your purpose?   Are you authentic?  Do you live your values? Are your values aligned with your organization? Do you believe in the organization’s purpose?  Are you consistent? Is your message aspirational? Is it compelling?  This will tell you why you do what you do.

Rational attributes are the ‘what’ you do, Emotional attributes are the ‘why’ we do it. We tend to focus on the ‘what’ which is why we have a lack of leadership in our companies.

There’s a Waldo Leader in all of us just waiting to be discovered.  More importantly though, your teams need you to become the Leader they need.

Blog Authors: Linda

Linda Montalbano

Linda Montalbano is a true retail operator with a history of leading large retail teams to success. If you need a fresh perspective on what's going wrong in your stores, Linda is the one to tell you like it is and come up with a solid game plan to turn things around!

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