Nine personal anecdotes from industry leaders on teachings from the master.
This story first appeared in the December 10, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
William P. Lauder
Executive Chairman, The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc.
“The most important lesson in business, which I learned from my father, can be boiled down to one word: passion. My father demonstrated that a hugely successful business can be built on this simple concept. A passion for product. A passion for the consumer. A passion for the retailer. A passion for the brand. A passion for quality. A passion for people. A passion for leadership. His passion for every aspect of building a lasting, world-leading cosmetics company has made our company great. His passion for teaching everybody around him has made us all better as a result.”
Group President, The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc.
“I have worked for Leonard Lauder and the Estée Lauder Cos. for close to 20 years and most of the important lessons I’ve learned in business, I learned from him. So much so that whatever it is, I often ask myself, ‘What would Leonard do?’ The most valuable has been that you are deﬁned as much by what you choose to do as what you choose not to do. Leonard is unquestionably one of the greatest architects in prestige beauty and has established the entire business paradigm that we live in today. Aspiration, desire, creativity, product innovation, point of sale, style and effective advertising and communication have been the cornerstones of Leonard’s repertoire.”
President and Chief Executive Ofﬁcer, The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc.
“The most lasting lesson I have learned from Leonard Lauder is that even though we live in a world where products and consumers are more and more in control, the reality is brands and companies are deﬁned by their distribution strategies, and those strategies are built on trust and relationships. Leonard is one of those great business leaders who combine business acumen with a profound appreciation for the value of relationships.”
Global Brand President, Clinique, Origins, Ojon
“Leonard’s greatest lesson to me was the ‘art’ of branding. There is much to be learned in textbooks about the fundamentals of this science; however, Leonard taught me there is a much larger commitment required to emotionally connect with the consumer. When I was ﬁrst appointed to Clinique, he told me to read every ad and mailer ever written since the conception of the brand. ‘As you make changes, I want you to understand exactly what you are changing,’ he instructed. Evolution, with a passionate connection to the core equity of a brand, is the stewardship you are given when you are appointed to a brand like Clinique at the Estée Lauder Companies. That lesson and many others, along with his high standards of character, integrity and kindness, have ﬁlled my life with enhanced grace for over 34 years.”
Phebe Farrow Port
Senior Vice President, Global Management Strategies The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc.
“Leonard Lauder’s lessons of leadership are numerous, but if I were to offer one, it would be the value of continuous creativity and innovation. In selecting the motto Semper Novus (Always New) for his Estée Lauder Companies at Vassar College (now held at Bryn Mawr College), Leonard taught me the value of always creating, improving and seeing everything you do with fresh eyes. Never settle! Never believe anything is ever really ‘good enough’ not to improve.”
Jane Hertzmark Hudis
Global Brand President, Estée Lauder
“Leonard Lauder literally created the prestige cosmetics business. His lessons are as meaningful today as when I started. Brand equity is everything, and without it nothing else matters. Protect it, cherish it—never ever let it slip away. Leonard believes strongly in the power of intuition, the power of creativity and the power of a woman. He taught me how to listen to my gut instincts, because if you don’t love something, your customers won’t. Leonard has been my professor, mentor, cheerleader, challenger, motivator and, through it all, a dear friend. His guidance has been so profound to me that I will always ask myself, ‘What would Leonard do?’”
Senior Vice President, Creative Director, Estée Lauder
“We both share a passion for advertising, and I’ve been learning about this art from him for decades. He knows just what makes an ad speak to a woman, what makes it beautiful and, most important, how it reﬂects and strengthens a brand. He built the Estée Lauder brand with the iconic beauty, style and chic of Karen Graham. Today his lessons are more true than ever, and I’m so grateful for everything I’ve learned from him.”
Global President and General Manager, Origins and Ojon
“Leonard is famous for writing personal messages to employees to encourage them and to thank them. His famous notes ﬁnd their way all over the world. Whenever he travels, he always ﬁnds time to send a note of encouragement. This personal touch is not only unique, but incredibly special to everyone who receives one from him. It is something that he is known for and is something that I try to follow whenever possible. It’s a good thing that we now have e-mail, since none of us could keep up with Leonard without it!”
Jeanette S. Wager
Vice Chairman Emerita, The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc.
“Over 25 years, the lessons I learned from Leonard Lauder came in a continuous stream—all part of the extremely rich experience of working with Leonard. Perhaps the most important lesson is: personal power must be accompanied by humanity— with humanity being 60 percent of the equation. Do the right thing! I have always seen Leonard behave with integrity, not personal power—no matter how important the deal or how powerful the participant or how powerless the individual. He is the epitome of mensch. He is a gallant knight.”