Anita Roddick’s Top 5 Leadership Messages

Great leaders like founder of The Body Shop Anita Roddick are associated with great leadership messages.

This is no coincidence!

Vivid messages help position people as great leaders. Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Steve Jobs, Steve Waugh, Bill Clinton, Richard Branson and Janine Allis are examples of this.

Body Shop Anita RoddickThe story of The Body Shop is fascinating. Anita Roddick started with just one store in 1976 and grew it to 2,000 stores. More importantly, she spent her life motivating and leading people toward corporate social consciousness.

The last time I saw her speak at a leadership event in Sydney (along with Jack Welch, Bill Clinton and Tom Peters), she was introduced by best-selling author Marcus Buckingham with, “I don’t think there’s any more extraordinary human being on earth than Anita Roddick. You know when they use the term “walk the talk”? She invented the term “walk the talk.”


How to get Massive Media Exposure without Advertising

Anita Roddick smileAnita Roddick had an amazing ability get her ideas heard. In my opinion, she was second only to Steve Jobs in her ability as a business leader to get her messages to a global audience without advertising.

She rejected conventional marketing and crafted memorable slogans and made bold public pronouncements. She used the staff, the windows, the walls and even the trucks to promote her messages. Consumers were the marketers as they shared ideas and passed on leaflets.

She like to be provocative and took strong positions on issues. Anita Roddick’s unconventional and un-businesslike demeanor made her the best advertisement The Body Shop could ever have.


Leadership Message No. 5:

ruby_Anita_Roddick“Educate rather than create hype.”

Rather than use traditional ad campaigns, The Body Shop got massive publicity through their social activism. For most of their high growth years, The Body Shop didn’t spend a single cent on advertising.

Yes, you read that correctly!

They stood for something – and got a lot of press attention as a result. For example, Anita Roddick was a vocal opponent of animal testing, and that crusade became one of her biggest calling cards.

As a result of her very unconventional stand on world issues, The Body Shop started to get an enormous amount of attention from the press.

Another memorable example was their unconventional take on their Barbie doll dubbed ‘Ruby’.

The campaign featured a doll with a rubenesque figure with the slogan, “There are 3 billion women who don’t look like supermodels and only 8 who do.”

The image was posted on Body Shop windows across the world and challenged people to think different about the stereotypes of beauty.

Ruby kick-started a worldwide debate on body image and self-esteem. It’s amazing to think that Anita Roddick was nominated for UK Marketing Hall of Fame, even though The Body Shop didn’t run advertising campaigns!


Leadership Message No. 4:

Anita Roddick Animal testing“Find new ways to push the limits of business and make it a force for positive change.”

Anita Roddick’s business vision was founded on being different from the start. Business was a means to drive social and environmental change, as well as make a dollar.

She did this with vivid messages and slogans that had so much impact they were passed onto others.

This is the holy grail of communication: transferable messages!

She campaigned for causes that until that time, the general community didn’t even know that they cared about. Issues like, “really – they are torturing animals to make my face cream? No way. I don’t want that.” She said, “Knowledge, unless it goes through the heart, is dangerous”.

It was through her genius as a communicator that Anita Roddick was able to inspire people, create change and give people things to believe in.


Leadership Message No. 3:

Anita Roddick unusual“Leadership is communication.”

Anita Roddick had an authentic way of speaking that engaged her team and inspired them. They not only worked for a cause, but they helped her company to succeed as well.

She said that most important tool you’ve got a leader is communication.

Make it bold and enlivening and passionate – if you can’t communicate, you’re just not there.”

Another technique she used was repetition. That’s right, repetition 🙂

You’ve got to keep talking, and keep on communicating your message over and over – and over! I remember her take home message from that leadership session in Sydney: “When you are exhausted from repeating yourself, and you think everybody else is exhausted from hearing – repeat it again! You’re probably just getting your message across”.

Vivid messages and repetition are the key.


Leadership Message No. 2:

Anita Roddick in front of Body Shop“Remember that people aspire to more than money.”

At the time Anita Roddick wrote her bestseller, ‘Business as Unusual‘, The Body Shop was Britain’s largest international retailer. However, it was not growth that motivated her but being value-driven. And that philosophy extended to her staff too.

Like Renee Zelwegger said to Tom Cruise in the movie ‘Jerry McGuire’, when they were talking about salary and medical benefits, “…mostly, I just want to be inspired“.

My first CEO, Paul Thompson who founded the Austereo radio group, felt it was a leader’s obligation to provide a vision, a cause, a purpose or a passion of some kind.

Roddick said, “If it isn’t about the production of the human spirit, we are in big trouble.”

And by human spirit she meant the concept of creating a culture where employees can experience personal growth. She thought of her employees as real people with a sense of care that extended beyond themselves.

Roddick was upfront in showing her passion. She said, “A business can become an incubator for the human spirit.”


Leadership Message No. 1:

Anita Roddick with product“Be daring, be first, be different, be just.”

The big question here is: how do you institutionalise success and still keep that edge of craziness, creativity and innovation?

Consider Henry Ford. He was an amazing innovator who changed the world with renegade activities and clear thinking. However, in later years he tried to automate everything, including the lives of people and ended up stifling creativity and ignoring the human needs of the organisation. And business success was impacted when personal satisfaction of his teams were reduced.

Anita Roddick on the other hand said, “leaders should never be seduced into believing it’s not the role of business to tackle the big issues – because it absolutely is”.

She seems to be saying – with every breathe of her working life – shake the world up!

It needs to be shaken up, it needs change.

So be great at marketing, messaging and persuasion or you won’t be able to change anything.

But remember, when success is starting to intoxicate you – be just. Confront the tough issues. Confront improper behaviour immediately.

With her wild hair, and passionate, unconventional style, Anita Roddick made a powerful statement for The Body Shop. Her approach to leadership was exactly “Business as Unusual”. She gave people inspiration and stories and used the power of the vivid message to help us to see things from a different view.

If you’d like to develop persuasive communication skills, consider:


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