I’m so disappointed that What Not to Wear is coming to an end. I’ve been hooked on this show since it started — for the fashion, of course, but mostly for the amazing transformation process.

Hosts Stacy London and Clinton Kelly mince no words when it comes to unfortunate clothing. As ruthless as their criticism can be about a frumpy housewife’s gray sweats, in the next breath, London and Kelly will exhort her to accept her less-than-perfect body as it is and highlight the positives.

I think Stacy and Clinton should write a leadership book. Their coaching principles go further than fashion.

  • Find the best qualities and play to them. Instead of trying to make a size-12 woman fit into a size-two dress, they will find a dress that flatters the size-12 woman. Learn what unique abilities each employee has to offer and find a way to channel them instead of trying to force a creative to become a spreadsheet ninja.
  • Appreciate differences. It’s ok if you don’t wear heels. Never make someone feel inferior because they aren’t like everyone else. I’m not a morning person; my most productive time is late afternoon until late at night. Just because I’m not up at the crack of dawn doesn’t mean I’m less productive than you; it’s quite likely I’m working after you’ve gone to bed. Help those whose work styles are different find a way to adapt their environment and/or schedule to their natural rhythms and you’ll get their best work.
  • Understand external factors. Stacy and Clinton often end up discussing personal matters that contribute to a woman’s self image and affect how she chooses to represent herself. No matter how hard we try, it’s impossible not to let our personal lives seep into our work. Perhaps there is a seriously-ill child or relative, relationship issues, or financial struggles. You don’t have to become Dr. Phil, but if you show that you understand and care, it’s the rare professional that won’t try extra hard to keep all the plates spinning.
  • Be direct, but not insulting. One of the most daunting features of the show is the 360-degree mirror. Contributors are forced to look at themselves from every angle, and most realize that they haven’t been doing themselves any favors with the white spandex. Though the style mavens may pan an awful outfit, their criticism is centered on the failure of the clothing to enhance the look, rather than the individual. Looking at unpleasant truth in a way that doesn’t denigrate the person makes it much more constructive.
  • Earn loyalty. Stacy and Clinton begin each show by helping the surprised ambush victim understand that they are there to help the woman achieve her goals rather than imposing external goals. Employees who feel valued, listened to and cared about will buy in to the big picture and work hard to ensure success for all.

Great leaders respect others’ unique qualities, value diversity, and appreciate the whole person as they inspire those who follow them to better themselves and their organization.

Think of the best leaders you’ve known; how did they incorporate these ideas?


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