As the SVP of retail strategy at Apple, Angela Ahrendts is one of the highest-ranking executives at the most valuable company in the world. To get that job, she had to leave her post as CEO of Burberry, where she had led a remarkable turnaround to reestablish the company as one of the world’s premier luxury fashion brands.
But not everyone thought Ahrendts had what it took to successfully lead others.
Ahrendts recently spoke to ABC journalist Rebecca Jarvis for her popular podcast No Limits. Asked about the worst career advice she ever received, Ahrendts tells of the time she was working at a big corporation and a human resources manager told her that she needed to make changes–like not talking so emotionally with her hands–if she wanted to be considered “CEO material.”
So, at the recommendation of the company, Ahrendts traveled to Minneapolis to meet with a coach, where she would be filmed and critiqued.
“I was supposed to be there for a couple of days, and I went for a couple of hours,” explains Ahrendts. “By lunchtime the first day, I just looked at them and I said, ‘I gotta go. I don’t want to be somebody that I’m not. I like me, and I’ve been pretty successful so far being me and I was raised in a really big family. And, you know, my mom liked me, my friends liked me … I don’t care about a title or a position. You know I have to wake up with me every morning, and I want to be the best version of myself. I don’t want to be this person you’re trying to make me, so I’m really sorry but I have to go.’ So, I left, and literally a month later got the call to become the CEO of Burberry.”
Borrowing from Shakespeare, Ahrendts then sums up the lesson in a single, beautiful sentence:
“So, I just think that to thyself be true.”