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What Kylie Cosmetics & Brewdog teach us about rebellious leadership

Written by Jackie Fast on Friday, 19 March 2021. Posted in Leadership, People

The world has changed. Sadly, much of leadership has not. Which is why the few leaders that play by new rules are achieving astronomical success. The recipe is remarkably simple. They broke old rules.

What Kylie Cosmetics & Brewdog teach us about rebellious leadership

The world has changed. Sadly, much of leadership has not. Which is why the few leaders that play by new rules are achieving astronomical success. The recipe is remarkably simple. They broke old rules.

Old rules that were put in place long before we had access to the internet. Old rules that served the few (mostly white men) at the top of the ladder. Understandably, old rules that no longer work and should be broken.

Kylie Cosmetics and Brewdog are excellent examples to prove this point because they could not be more different. From the founders themselves, to the foundations, to their customers – both businesses have absolutely nothing in common. And yet, their leadership approach when starting out is almost identical. More importantly their quick rise within their respected monopolistic industries proves the point – that rebellious leadership is now required.

Be Authentic

The irony that Kylie Jenner epitomizes authenticity in leadership is not lost. However, it is this authenticity which has driven Kylie Cosmetics to the $1.2bn valuation it is today. Starting out in 2014 with only 15,000 lip kits, 4 employees, and $250,000 she was quickly able to convert her followers into advocates. She did this by sharing her story online with her fans. More specifically openly discussing her insecurities about her appearance and her lips. 

This prompted an army of young women to connect with Jenner on a level beyond your typical influencer #ads. Young women who were also going through the same insecurities of growing up and finding their own identities. When you consider how vastly different Jenner’s real life would be compared to the average teenager you start to appreciate how much authenticity can influence. Being genuine overcomes much of the traditional challenges of connecting with someone because people can align to the person in a more meaningful way.

It is this engagement with her customers that propelled the business to overtake market share from leaders like L’Oreal who held a monopoly for over a century. 

Despite what you may say about the Hollywood platform she had before she started Kylie Cosmetics, many celebrities have tried and failed to launch something similar (remember Lady Gaga and Polaroid?). What makes Jenner different is that beauty, in particular her lips, was a real passion for her and she could truthfully talk about it, rather than ‘sell’ it. 

People no longer want to be sold to (did they ever?), but they do want to discover products and services that enrich their lives and help them tell their own stories within their own networks.

It is worth noting that this approach is vastly different to her other celebrity siblings who flogged products that were not aligned and only went so far. Unsurprisingly Kim Kardashian has just launched a shapewear brand Skims, likely taking a page out of Kylie’s book in terms of alignment.

In the age of influencer fatigue, authenticity is paramount. What makes this rebellious are leaders who are brave enough to tell the truth. 

Follow your passion

Unlike Kylie Jenner, co-founders James Watt and Martin Dickie launched Brewdog as far from Hollywood as you could get – in a Scottish industrial estate. But like Jenner, they too have quickly become a billion-dollar empire.

The duo is frequently credited with starting the craft beer revolution, which is no mean feat when you consider that market leader Anheuser-Busch InBev has annual revenues of $55 billion and controls more than 26% of the global beer market. And yet Brewdog continues to grow – powered in part by their crowdsourcing programme ‘Equity for Punks’ which has raised $95 million to date.

If you are familiar with Brewdog than it is obvious that they love sticking it to ‘the man’. Their rebellious attitude towards monopolistic beer companies is often reflected in their outrageous PR stunts including projecting naked images of themselves onto London’s Houses of Parliament and employing a dwarf to petition the two-thirds pint glass. But underneath it all they just love to make great beer. Beer that is unique. Beer made for beer lovers.

It is this alignment of their values to what they do which not only propels their business but is the cornerstone for every business decision they make. Should we launch a new product? Should we go international? Should we hire this student? If it helps them brew a better beer, you bet they will!

What makes these leaders rebellious is actually not so rebellious at all. After all, shouldn’t we all be telling the truth and doing things we love? Unfortunately, it is not so easy, which is why leaders such as James Watt and Kylie Jenner are credited as ‘rule breakers’. 

But the world is different now. We now have the tools to follow our passion and our voice can now be heard. So, speak up, tell your story, and start doing what you love to do. When you do, big things happen and you won’t just be reading about people launching billion-dollar companies, you will be doing it yourself.

About the Author

Jackie Fast

Jackie Fast

Jackie Fast is an award-winning leading entrepreneur, investor, public speaker, former The Apprentice contestant, Managing Director of Sandbox Studios, and author of new book Rule Breaker: Rebellious Leadership of the Future of Work.

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