As a part of our Faces of Leadership series, we’re highlighting the unique perspectives and paths to success of some of today’s top executives. This time, we’re featuring Christiane Pendarvis, Co-President/Chief Merchandising and Design Officer for Savage x Fenty.
Christiane describes herself as a customer centric, global C-suite executive with over 25 years of experience leading direct-to-consumer and omni-channel retail businesses. Her career focus has been in retail merchandising and general management, running operating businesses with Fortune 500 brands including Old Navy and Victoria’s Secret.
Ahead, Christiane shares her perspective on cultivating a supportive leadership style and the best advice she’s ever received on leadership.
How would you describe your leadership style?
My leadership style is inspiring, supportive, and consistent. I know that our organization will only be as successful as the people who are helping to guide it. Therefore, my focus is on making sure they are clear on our vision and our strategy, that they have the resources and support that they need to deliver, and that I show up every day, as consistently as possible for my team.
What was your first leadership role like?
My very first leadership role was when I became a vice president of merchandising for a specialty retailer here in the US. I managed a team of about 10, in total: buyers, assistant buyers, and administrative people, and it was a big transition for me.
“One of the biggest things I learned in [my first leadership] role is to meet people and manage people where they are, how they are, and how they need to be managed.”
I think one of the biggest things that I learned in that role is to meet people and manage people where they are, how they are, and how they need to be managed. I did a great deal of introspection during that role, and I learned that not everyone operates the way I operate. It’s really important to understand how to guide and direct people. That is how you get the most out of them, based on meeting them exactly where they are.
Now, with over 25 years of experience under your belt, how has your relationship with leadership changed? What does it mean to you today?
Leadership to me is all about bringing together a diverse group of talent behind a shared vision and a common purpose. Specifically, that means picking the right talent, the right individual for the role and the organization, and then unlocking that talent, getting them to be the best possible version of themselves that they can be and really be fulfilled in everything they are doing. And inevitably, managing the roadblocks, the speed bumps, the challenges that will come along on that journey.
Tell us about the strengths you’ve developed along the way.
The strengths that I bring to my roles are vision, courage, and humility. I’m able to see things that other people aren’t able to see. And I’m always unafraid to say what might be unpopular but it needs to be said.
“I always approach my roles knowing that I don’t have all the answers.”
I always approach my roles knowing that I’m not the smartest person in the room. I don’t have all the answers. So I make sure that I am humble in how I lead my team.
What is the best advice you’ve received about being a leader?
Some of the best advice that I got about being a leader is to always remember you are always visible even when you think people are not watching and looking, they absolutely are. Do not forget the impact that you have on people, on your teams, on your organization. The shadow of the leader is very, very large and looms large. And so with that, the other piece of advice to go along with that is to make sure you have a safe space where you can seek counsel, guidance, and just support, because you’ll need it as well.