Learning from Lululemon’s ‘Sheer’ Disaster: Honesty is Best Policy

Transparency is a good thing in business. However, if you’re a clothing company, you don’t want to take that message too literally.

Lululemon was the source of a lot of buzz this week over its sheer yoga pants. Despite the company’s recalls and press missteps, leadership guru Jeremy Kingsley said the apparel maker proved honesty is always best.

The author of “Inspired People Produce Results” said telling your customers the truth during a media storm can salvage a brand.

“When you make an apology and issue recalls, whether its clothes, cars or otherwise, that seems to be the way to go,” Kingsley said. “You don’t want to look like you tried to sneak one by them, or have you customers feel tricked or duped.”

Kingsley said maintaining a clear brand message is just one way to achieve success in business. Considering what works and what did not or is not working for your business should be evaluated often.

“It’s the branding, marketing and the people you surround yourself with,” he said. “Make sure you are using them and researching others. Always rely on that initial strength.”

But strength and ego can lead to slowed profits and stunted growth if not executed with care, Kingsley said. Biting off more than you can chew is a rookie mistake in the entrepreneurial world. Major brands like Starbucks and Krispy Kreme learned this the hard way.

“They opened up too many stores and had to retreat,” he said. “Sometimes if you are a leader with a really aggressive personality type, you have to be careful not to overextend yourself.”

And what about leadership style? Kingsley said being a great leader is a combination of both nature and nurture. Some leaders are just naturals, and there are skills you can’t learn in business school.

“You can read all you want about conflict resolution,” he said. “But until you are actually in it and have a conflict that comes up and gets nasty and tense, you won’t understand it. You will learn that on the job.”

One leader grappling with conflict resolution as of late is Yahoo!’s CEO Marissa Mayer, who drew both criticism and praise for her ending the tech company’s telecommuting program as of June 1, 2013. As long as leaders have a personal board of directors surrounding them and a solid support team- they will succeed, he says.

“She made a decision she felt was right for her company at that point in time,” he said. “It was a tough call. You have to pursue mentors, be persistent and push yourself. It’s a continual learning experience.”