Andrea Jung, chairman and CEO of Avon Products, Inc., knows a thing or two about reinvention. After taking over the venerable beauty-products firm in 1999, she helped it shed the last vestiges of its “Ding-dong, Avon calling” image and morph into a glamorous international brand. Under her leadership, the company introduced new lines and products, repackaged old standbys, invested heavily in research and development, and expanded overseas. Redubbed “the company for women,” Avon now operates in more than 100 countries, generating some $8 billion in annual revenues through online and retail sales and through its 5 million independent door-to-door “sales representatives.”

At a November event cohosted by two student-led entities, the Leadership and Ethics Forum and the Social Enterprise Club, Jung told her audience that whether it’s a company or an individual, a key to success is “to reinvent yourself.” “The skills that you had last year,” she declared, “aren’t necessarily going to be good enough to play the game this year.”

Jung then turned to hallmarks of leadership. Character and integrity are rightly at the top of everyone’s list, she observed. Next she cited a passion for one’s work, which, she added, must go hand in hand with compassion and recognition of the importance of people. As Jung put it, “Everything is about who, and then it’s about what.” Humility and the ability to acknowledge what one doesn’t know are also invaluable traits: “Even when you get into the corner office, you’re still learning, every quarter, every year.” She further listed pride in one’s self, a sense of purpose, and courage as important to a leader’s makeup. When one is a leader, Jung said, “Every day there will be a crisis and a curveball. You have to have the courage to take those on, the courage to reinvent yourself, not hold on to the past, and to act swiftly.”

Proudly noting that corporate responsibility has always been integral to Avon’s identity, Jung stated that the company has raised over $450 million in the fight against breast cancer and for other women’s causes. As for the issue of women and leadership roles, Jung, who is frequently named as one of the most powerful and influential females in business, said, “I think in the next five to ten years there is going to be an unbelievable change in the numbers of women leading businesses. I think there is a sea change coming that is very positive.”


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