Apple and Burberry Exec Angela Ahrendts: ‘We’re All In The People Business’

In this edition of our Corporate Competitor Podcast, Maxwell Leadership Thought Leader Don Yaeger sits down with longtime Apple and Burberry executive Angela Ahrendts to discuss the people-first philosophy that provides the constant in her wide-ranging career. 

It may be an unconventional path for a CEO, but when Angela Ahrendts is asked about how she made the transition from being CEO of one of the most recognized fashion brands in the world, Burberry, to SVP at Apple, she says the move was really just another way of doing what she’s always done: working in the “people business.”

As a leader, Ahrendts famously says she prefers to focus her attention not on her organization’s P&L, but on its P&I, as in “people and impact.” When she moved from Burberry to Apple, she did so not to gain industry experience in technology or chase a promotion. She did so because she saw an opportunity to leverage Apple’s farflung workforce to effect change in communities around the world.

Once she arrived at Apple, she took the lessons she had learned at Burberry and went all in on impact by leading the company in a crowdsourcing exercise that asked Apple’s 55,000 employees around the world to answer the question, “What should Apple be doing in your community?” The answers that came back became action points and ways she improved the relationships she had not just with the community in the areas of education and business opportunity, but also with her team.

Following Apple, Ahrendts performed another one of her pivots and took her talents and experience to the boards of such brands as Ralph Lauren, AirBnb, and Save the Children International, a charity focused on improving the lives of at-risk children worldwide. As with those she’s led or serves with on boards, listeners to the podcast will benefit from lessons Ahrendts draws from her remarkably diverse experiences. These include:

• Why even the most tech-driven corporate cultures need to strike a balance between technology and humanity.

• How to use offsites to draw your team together, put people on the same page and get the best out of them.

• How to connect with your personal passion to make a difference in the lives of others.

Ahrendts, who has been named to the Forbes Most Powerful Women list eight times, says the move from corporate to nonprofit represents less of a pivot than a natural extension of her passion. “When I got the call for Save the Children and saw it had offices in 30 countries and 25,000 people on the ground focused on women and children, it just felt like it was a calling,” said the loving wife, mom, sister, daughter, friend and leader.


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