Mark & Mo Constantine: Most important is fairness
Vogue Leaders20. 8. 2021
Mark & Mo Constantine believe that family and business belong together and together they prove that balancing work and family doesn't have to be a challenge. Their collaboration brings synergy to the development of a fresh handmade cosmetics brand that is popular around the world.
What do you think leadership means?
Mo: It can often mean having someone to blame! People can’t quite make their own minds up sometimes – even though they have the power, knowledge and know-how to do so – they can’t quite get to the finish point, so leadership can help overcome that obstacle.
Mark: It’s why you can’t do your own therapy – it’s good to get someone else’s opinion! There’s a big deal about being alone or feeling like you’re doing it alone. Even if you’re knee-deep in people, you can still feel a little bit alone when making the decisions. It’s down to experience to be able to see your way through. It’s tough being a leader, a lot of bravery is involved, but you get used to it.
What qualities and values should a good leader have?
Mark: Fairness is the single most important one – if you’re going to have bias, let them know beforehand. For example, I believe in nepotism, but I let people know that – I believe having family members involved in the business is better, it helps build the business and keeps the spirit alive.
Also, consistency is the only thing I can’t offer, if you have a boss that’s not inconsistent, he’s not listening to you and he’s not changing his point of view. Inconsistency is my forté! I learn something new and I change my point of view. Inconsistency in management style as well – try to be unpredictable if you can. When you realise what the facts are, change your mind.
Mo: Some sense of compassion is necessary too. Understanding what and who you’re dealing with so you can provide an appropriate response and help get to the right conclusion.
Mark: Recruiting the right people is also important. If you’ve got conscientious people, who like to work for you, then when they’re in a crisis they’re superb. They’ll pull out all the stops for you, because that’s the people they are.
Try to be unpredictable if you can.
What and how does a leader inspire people?
Mo: I definitely don’t think it should be a case of simply ‘follow my actions’. Everyone is fallible and often makes mistakes. It is very helpful though for everyone to understand their position in a team and to help others achieve their aims and ambitions in a subtle way. Helping to facilitate rather than blasting in and taking over. It’s about collaboration and listening – not all about you. Having an opinion ready, but leaving plenty of space for others. Steer the ship.
Mark: Egotism is the enemy of teamwork. Give credit where credit is due and don’t take credit for things other people have done. You’re representative of a team – not an individual. I’m surrounded by so many opinionated people that it would be a luxury to be able to dictate sometimes! But that’s the thing: selecting the right team. You don’t want sycophants, you want to surround yourself with strong people who have opinions but who are reasonable. If you’re going to have maniacs, make sure to limit them to one per team! The job is not to provide a strong vision – but to listen to the vision from everyone else, summarise it and feed it back. The art of summary is very important.
It’s about collaboration and listening – not all about you.
Has leadership changed since the pandemic?
Mark: I wouldn’t say leadership has changed since the pandemic, but I do think it has changed in my lifetime. There’s better education and people expect to be included – they certainly don’t expect to be excluded. You need to pay attention or go home. It’s a big change. You can’t bring your old approaches to the table today. Re-education is vital.
I don’t think it’s at all difficult to give leadership in times of crisis, but managing a business during successful times needs far more skill. When there’s loads of money sloshing around, it’s difficult to explain to someone that there’s no money to do certain things. So I would say it’s far harder to run a business in successful times, and when you’re growing - as growth covers up a lot of the mistakes you’ve made. We spent a lot of time during the pandemic clearing up all the stuff we could see – stuff we should have fixed before.
How have you dealt with store closures, sales cutbacks, raw material supply problems?
Mark: With stoicism, imagination and versatility. We also worked on streamlining the business, but with minimum redundancies. As a leader you can learn a lot from your customers – that’s the nice thing about modern social media, if you ask them they will tell you! You do as you’re told – this is the key to it all – asking, listening and doing what you’re told.
Mo: We´ve also been trying to be helpful. Right from the start of the pandemic we made soap available in our shops for customers to come in and wash their hands, along with giving products (mainly soap and hand creams) to the NHS. And we tried to preserve as many jobs locally as possible.
Mark Constantine OBE & Mo Constantine OBE are married and together they are behind the success of the Lush brand. Mark co-founded Lush fresh Handmade Cosmetics in 1995 with five co-founders including Mo. Mark is the driving force behind the business and also works as part of the product development team creating hair, skincare & body creams and spa treatments. Mo specializes in inventing solid, unpreserved and unpackaged products and was granted her first patent in 1988 for the invention of the resoundingly popular solid shampoo bar. In the 2010 Queen’s New Years Honours list they both received OBEs for their services to the beauty industry. The Lush brand is also involved in charity, currently you can buy for example Charity Pot and support organisations that fight for human, animal and environmental rights. This article was also published in Czech. Join Vogue Leaders on LinkedIn.