Jane McKellar Reveals The Top Qualities Of Successful CEOs

Leading a company may seem like one of the most glamorous jobs in the world, but it is by no means the easiest. There are several hurdles that business owners and CEOs need to tackle every single day (including weekends and holidays). These include not just internal matters such as office organisation and assignment and sharing of responsibilities, but also external factors, such as the company’s image, relationships with clients and vendors and ongoing competition with company rivals. As such, being a CEO requires more than just skill in leading people.

Jane McKellar, one of the most notable female CEOs for today’s generation, has helped numerous companies around the world not only improve and boost their operations but also jumpstart companies that are struggling to make a name in the corporate world or even those that have already become stagnant. She is best known for her work with Elizabeth Arden Australia, where she organised what has been awarded as the “Launch of the Year” by media agency AdNews. Ms. McKellar has also served senior level roles in companies such as Unilever, Microsoft’s MSN Australia, Stila Corporation and Callanish Interests Pty Ltd, as well as non-executive directorships in Clarisonic, Terraplanet, KUSP and Ebet.com.au.

According to Ms. McKellar, one of the top qualities of a successful CEO is commitment to learning. This capacity to learn does not involve just the ins and outs of their own respective industries, but also about competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, the qualities of the target market and the key features of their vendors that can be used to improve sales. Ms. McKellar steadfastly subscribes to the philosophies offered in Sun Tzu’s war treatise, The Art of War, and applies the leadership strategies presented in this book on her business ventures. In The Art of War, the importance of learning in success is emphasised in this simple passage: “If you know your enemy and you know yourself, your victory will not be threatened. If you know the terrain and know the weather, the victory is inexhaustible.”

In addition to commitment to constant learning, Ms. McKellar shares another key quality of successful CEOs: adaptability. She states that while learning allows business owners to create plans and strategies that have a very high chance of success, the truth is that the success of such “fool-proof” plans is only guaranteed in theory, and that the business landscape is very unpredictable. A more sensible plan, she states, is one that allows room to accommodate unforeseen factors that can later on change the course of business.

However, these aforementioned qualities — the capacity to learn and adaptability — are useless without the wisdom to know when changes need to be implemented, which according to Jane McKellar is the last important trait of an effective leader. She shares that hard work and discipline are indeed important, but it’s even more crucial to recognise when these are no longer enough and change is needed.

Jane McKellar Revealed: The Three War Principles That Can Change Your Business

Sun Tzu’s The Art of War is perhaps one of the most well-known war treatises in the world, and military strategists have used its principles to lead wars throughout history. This famous ancient text definitely has its applications in war; however, very few individuals realize that Sun Tzu’s wisdom can also be applied in life and business. Jane McKellar, an avid reader of Sun Tzu’s treatise on war, is one of these few.

Ms. McKellar is a businesswoman with extensive experience in various global business industries. She is the brains behind the most successful perfume launch in the history of Australia and is also the driving force behind the performance breakthrough that has helped Elizabeth Arden reclaim its status in the beauty market. Ms. McKellar shares three fundamental Sun Tzu passages that have influenced how she runs businesses:

“If you know your enemy and you know yourself, your victory will not be threatened. If you know the terrain and know the weather, the victory is inexhaustible.”

According to Ms. McKellar this passage means that success can be attained by learning about the various players involved and factors that can influence business. These players include not just the company and its competitors, but also the buyers and product vendors. She relates that she and her team managed to boost productivity in stores by helping vendors of Elizabeth Arden products learn about the “terrain”; vendors were taught to observe and learn about factors such as traffic in stores, file card systems for customers as well as the optimum time for selling. After this simple exercise of “knowing about the terrain”, the company eventually reaped a 30 per cent increase in productivity within a few months’ time.

“Victory in war is not repetitious but adapts its form regularly.”

This war principle, states Ms. McKellar, is all about changing your strategies to adapt to the current trends in the market. She asserts that businesses are “not going to be victorious if you do the same thing over again.” Sun Tzu’s simple passage serves as reminder for business not to become too comfortable with a single successful business strategy as it poses two risks that can eventually help competitors topple even powerful brands: first, a successful marketing technique, when repeated many times over, makes even the best products appear unexciting and eventually, unappealing; second, using the same strategy repeatedly makes you very predictable, a weakness that competitors can eventually use to their advantage.

“So the important thing in a military operation is victory, not persistence.”

This last important quote from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War is about recognising when your efforts are not effective, and then tweaking your strategies to adapt to the current market. Jane McKellar shares that while discipline and hard work are indeed important, it’s also essential in business to know in a timely manner when a strategy is just not working so that you can curb your losses and move on and employ a more effective approach.

Jane McKellar Revealed: Lessons From The Writings Of Sun Tzu

Sun Tzu’s The Art of War is perhaps one of the most famous war and leadership treatises ever written in history. This piece of ancient text is well-known not only for its revolutionary ideas, but for its successful application in real life situations. Numerous politicians and military strategists, both in the ancient and modern world, have won wars using Sun Tzu’s guidance; in fact, both General Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr. and General Colin Powell have been said to employ principles stated in this book during the Persian Gulf War in the 1990s.

However, wars are not the only real life situations where Sun Tzu’s teachings can be applied. Personal relationships and business can also benefit from the ancient war strategist’s wisdom — after all, in the words of the English novelist Charlotte Bronte, “But life is a battle: may we all be enabled to fight it well!”

Jane McKellar, a CEO, board director and business consultant, believes in the value of Sun Tzu’s teachings in business. She shares that his strategies for attaining victory in wars have helped her gain more success in this field. An example of Ms. McKellar’s successful application of Sun Tzu’s principles is demonstrated in her accomplishments, particularly those she achieved while serving as managing director of Elizabeth Arden in Australia. Jane McKellar relates that at the time of her appointment, the company’s core operations were becoming sluggish and morale was at an all-time low. Through a clear leadership strategy and with the guidance of Sun Tzu’s teachings, however, Ms. McKellar was able to kick off a business turnaround: within 12 months of her appointment, she organised and executed the most successful perfume launch in the history of Australia and at the same time, she also helped boost profits by a large margin and positioned three of Elizabeth Arden’s perfumes in Australia’s top ten bestsellers.

Besides her massive achievements at Elizabeth Arden Australia, Ms. McKellar has also helped other companies, both big and small, rejuvenate their operations and gain profitability. She explicitly states that she is “passionate about brands, turn-arounds, start-ups and kick-starting stale businesses, as well as leading and developing teams.”

Ms. McKellar shares that the strategies and principles for victory stated in The Art of War have helped her propel companies, even struggling and stagnating ones, to success. Among the core principles discussed in the text are the importance of knowledge and adaptability in business. These two, when combined with the wisdom to know the appropriate time for flexibility and a leader who is resolute in achieving gains, can help even seemingly hopeless companies.

These “hidden” lessons are actually not-so-secret — after all, anyone can access the book. The real secret to success, shares Ms. McKellar, is understanding these concepts and knowing how to apply them in real life.