Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Your new boss says his favorite book is The Prince. Should you be scared?

Let's meet Estee Lauder CEO Fabrizio Freda, OK?

Right away, he seems sensible: "Mr. Freda wants to woo customers who are still hesitant to splurge on upscale cosmetics. To make shopping less intimidating, some beauty counters now display prices....'It allowed the consumer to make up her mind without having to ask the price. This takes embarrassment away.'" For the salesperson too. It shouldn't have taken this long for someone to realize that.

He's from Procter & Gamble so he likes his research: "We don't want to just do the products that consumers want. We want to be inspired by consumer desires and surprise them with products and services that they don't expect."

And his leadership style is most influenced by The Prince: "'What we learn reading this book is the difficulty of change. Machiavelli explains [that] when you need to change something, you have as enemies all the people who were happy in the previous status. You look for supporters in the people who want to change but don't know how their life would be after change.'"

You could say that, as a rare non-Lauder in the family business and someone in the process of laying off 2000 people, he's being a little Machiavellian by merely mentioning the book. Or is his honesty refreshing?

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