An interview with Vin Lee, CEO of family office Grand Metropolitan, a $7 billion AUM privately-held luxury goods holding company with a 100-brand portfolio, by Megha Hamal, opinion columnist at the CEOWORLD magazine.
American author John C. Maxwell once said that leadership is influence. That is, leadership is more about impact and inspiration and less about titles and designations. The question then arises: How do you use your leadership to influence – to make better – your sector and industry?
My interview with Vin Lee, CEO of family office Grand Metropolitan, a luxury goods holding company with a 100-brand portfolio, illustrates some tips on how leaders can use their influence to create impact. As the leader of his company, Lee is constantly reinforcing integrity, transparency, and sustainability in his day-to-day operations. Whether it is through his work at Finlay Fine Jewelers, one of the largest private jeweler groups in North America, or Heilig-Meyers, one of the largest private home furnishing retailers in the United States, Lee strives to be a conscientious leader and makes a concerted effort to improve the world.
Here are five tips that Lee shared during the interview to build influence and creating impact as a leader:
- Create a culture of transparency
In a rapidly changing world, transparency matters. It is vital to consumers and stakeholders. It is why transparency has also been called “the currency of trust.” According to Lee, transparency starts with opening up the lines of communication especially during challenging times. This allows leaders to be more human and vulnerable. As a result, leaders earn trust from their employees and employees in turn can relate to their leaders. Lee emphasizes that transparent leaders are able to lead great companies and achieve great results because, over time, they have built solid relationships based on their integrity and character.
- Embrace diversity in every aspect of the business
Today, diversity is critical for a company’s ability to innovate and adapt in a fast-changing environment. Lee emphasizes that in today’s business world, diversity within a business helps that business successfully meet the needs of the various people the company serves. Lee believes that diversity is a key driver of workforce innovation and provides companies with a competitive advantage in the marketplace. “Companies are not just faceless merchants providing goods and services – companies are employers and employees inhabit communities, so we must represent those communities,” he says.
Lee believes it is important for other leaders to recognize how the world has changed and how companies need to represent the world it exists in. He adds, “As a leader, I have a responsibility to the communities that I serve. Diversity must be present in every aspect of our businesses to successfully meet the needs of those we serve.”
- Practice social awareness
Social awareness is the ability to recognize and address others’ feelings, needs, and concerns. Well-developed social awareness helps leaders communicate effectively, practice empathy, and build trust. “Social awareness is not an empty gesture. It is not simply about charitable giving for tax write-offs. It has a lot to do with emotional intelligence and understanding what your strengths and weaknesses are as a leader and improving on them,” says Lee. “In today’s world everyone and everything is connected. Your actions can easily amplify and their impact can last forever in your customers minds as well as on the planet,” he adds.
- Ask for feedback
The value of feedback has been emphasized time and time again. According to a study by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, leaders who ranked in the top 10% in asking for feedback were rated at the 86th percentile in leadership effectiveness. Lee agrees that leaders at every level need to be surrounded by honest and trustworthy advisors who can offer feedback to improve. He says creating open dialogue opportunities for employees is one of the ways leaders can seek feedback. “The smartest person in the room is the one that listens. Those people working in the field, speaking with customers, interacting with vendors, and in contact with your product are your best sources for improvement,” Lee suggests.
- Build integrity
As the owner of Finlay Fine Jewelers, one of the leading diamond businesses in North America, Lee sees the importance of integrity in his line of work. He says, “Integrity is sacred in business and has always served me well. In the diamond world, several names have been tarnished in the wake of over ambitiousness: Nirav Modi, Jacob & Co., Leviev, Lazare Kaplan, and M. Fabrikant, for example. Even Signet, the world’s largest jewelry group, is embroiled in some mess and is closing hundreds of locations and losing billions in market cap equivalent to almost 90% of their highest valuation.” “The consumer must believe in your brand in order to appreciate the value you are offering. You can always make more money, recover from losses or failure as long as your integrity is intact, Lee adds.
Vin Lee is the CEO of family office Grand Metropolitan, a $7 billion AUM privately-held luxury goods holding company with a 100-brand portfolio. Finlay Fine Jewelers is one of the largest private jeweler groups in North America. Heilig-Meyers is one of the largest private home furnishing retailers in the United States. Dalgety PLC operates the firm’s food and beverage brands including arable and pastoral farming, IMASCO Ltd. tobacco interests, and Pushkin Caviar. In 2016, Dalgety included Frechef under its umbrella and began introducing Fruishi (Fruit Sushi).
Grand Metropolitan also owns Gallery Rodeo, The Beverly Hills Cigar Club, and Beverly Hills Sports Car. Gallery Rodeo collects fine art including works by Picasso, Rembrandt, Renoir, Klimt, and Rodin. The Beverly Hills Cigar Club is a private group of individuals passionate about wine, spirits, food, and cigars. Lee spends his time between the Gulf Coast, Florida, and Southern California.
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