Former Group President of Procter & Gamble said the shifting market calls for a change in the definition of leadership.
“I think it’s no doubt that businesses today are facing tumultuous times,” Gina Drosos said Friday at Terry College of Business’ third annual Professional Women’s Conference. “And it’s making traditional notions of leadership obsolete.”
Drosos graduated from the Terry College of Business and got her MBA from Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.
She was one of Fortune magazine’s 50 Most Powerful Women in Business in 2010 and 2011 and oversaw more than 20 global beauty brands while at Procter & Gamble. Today, Drosos is a board member for Signet Jewelers, the largest specialty retail jeweler in the U.S. and the U.K.
Drosos, who headed the $6 billion operation Global Beauty Care, said while the changing economy created a problem for some students hoping to find jobs, it also provided an opportunity for innovative students to affect the market.
“My view is that these challenges make a great opportunity for leaders like us,” she said. “Uncertain times invites strong leadership, and rapid change requires change agents.”
Drosos transformed Olay from a $200 million business to a $2.5 billion business in her 25 years with P&G and said businesses must respond to demographic and economic changes in today’s market by “leading from the outside, in.”
“It means being outwardly focused, anticipating and leading change, partnering more than ever before, being very quick to act and having the agility to act quickly based on changing circumstances,” she said.
In order to evolve, business leaders must understand how the world’s markets are merging as people immigrate, Drosos said.
“As these people move, they will bring with them their cultural heritage, their beliefs and their product preferences,” she said.
P&G’s CoverGirl tailored its advertising in the United States to respond to the elevated levels of Hispanic immigration by displaying Hispanic celebrities in their ads.
Drosos said Hispanic Americans make up about 16 percent of the population, 25 percent of newborns and 6 percent of the buying power for the United States.
“It simply has to change the way we develop products and the way we market,” she said. “There was a time when I would say to our teams, ‘What’s your Hispanic marketing plan?’ And today, Hispanic consumers are an integrated part of every marketing plan we do. The Hispanic plan is the marketing plan.”
Business leaders should also adapt their business plans based on the changing way consumers expect to connect with them, Drosos said.
“Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest...they’re all enabling people around the world to share ideas or interests, to mobilize forces, speak out,” she said. “To express themselves [and] to connect with companies and brands like they never did before.”
Drosos said the desire for consumers to connect with companies means business leaders need to be more transparent in their practices.
“Connectivity requires transparency,” she said. “And I think for business leaders this means being open to sharing our practices and encouraging conversation and open dialogue.”