BUSINESS

How Clothing Designer Eileen Fisher Came To Embrace The Masculine

It had a lot to do with structure -- corporate structure.
Eileen Fisher's clothing line outgrew its original management style.
Eileen Fisher's clothing line outgrew its original management style.

Sometimes growing a brand means rethinking your leadership style.

Eileen Fisher ran into this problem as her eponymous clothing line approached $300 million in annual revenue. The company grew so big that she recently realized she needed to revise how it's run.

Fisher spoke to The Huffington Post's executive editor for impact and innovation, Jo Confino, at the Sustainable Brands conference in San Diego this week in the video below.

The clothing brand founder talked about the difference between what she called masculine and feminine leadership styles (around the 5:40 mark). Her company has recently become more masculine, she said.

"The feminine is more listening and receptive kind of mode. And I feel like that has sort of helped me hear others, and work with others, and create a collaborative and intuitive kind of environment," she explained. 

"I think we've done really well with this sort of feminine model, but we've kind of hit a point where we're too big almost and we need more structure. I never use the word 'structure' -- and 'strategy.' Those are sort of masculine words to me," Fisher said. 

By dubbing the two management styles masculine and feminine, Fisher noted that she didn't mean to suggest they align with actual gender: There are masculine and feminine traits in everyone. The masculine side values efficiency, she said.

Lately, Fisher said, the company has brought in more men. One man in particular started talking about the differences between masculine and feminine leadership styles. She said she hadn't thought about management that way before. 

"I always saw things moving organically and fluidly and intuitively and all of that. But now we have to be efficient and we have to be effective and we have to be focused and we have to make decisions more clearly," Fisher said. "And we have to have more definition." 

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