Today we are promoting Micky Onvural to be our next CEO at Bonobos.
We re-launched our brand this year with a campaign called #EvolvetheDefinition. Over 10 million people have now viewed the video on YouTube — with more than twice as many dislikes as likes. Like Nike’s recent campaign with Colin Kaepernick, it had a lot of vocal enthusiasts, and a lot of vocal detractors. Instead of being disappointed in Micky for not delivering a more universally loved campaign, we are grateful to her for her leadership in standing firm on a powerful message. Most people would have been scared to light that kind of fire on the internet. Not Micky. She believes in a world where brands stand for something. It’s been said that people don’t buy what you make — they buy what you believe. Our belief is in a more inclusive future where all human beings are treated equally — and we believe in Micky’s ability to take us there.
To build an innovative culture requires leading from joy versus leading from fear. For people to be unafraid, they need to feel safe: safe to experiment, safe to fail, safe to share ideas, safe to disagree, safe to joke, and above all safe to be themselves. It’s stunningly rare for organizations to deliver this kind of environment. When people feel safe, they can experience joy, and an innovative culture is rooted in joy. Play precedes innovation, and you can’t play unless you feel safe and happy. Micky is a playful leader. According to StrengthsFinder, she has woo, which is a certain joie de vive and charisma. It stands for ‘winning others over.’ Woo has to be felt to be understood. Some people think the world is a magical place and they make you feel the same way with their contagious optimism. Micky is just the wizard we’ve been looking for.
The security in knowing your own strengths is best when it’s nested in the humility of knowing what you don’t know. People who can process this dissonance as harmony are rare, and they are the leaders people want to follow. You know you can learn from them, and equally important, they know they can learn from you. These leaders know influencing others comes from being influenced. It is only an enlightened leader who sees how small their role is in the success of a team, and yet how critical it is that they play that role masterfully to make winning possible. To attract and retain great talent, humility doesn’t just help; it is required. So is a sense of humor. What I love about Micky is she is sure of herself, but not too sure.
Cultures are enormously idiosyncratic. Bonobos is about as weird as they come. We love winning, but we love kindness. We love humor, but we don’t like people who think they are funny. We love fashion, but we don’t like the word fashionable. We go camping once a year, but, let’s be honest, we sleep in bunks. Fitting in with this culture is either easy or impossible. Micky was a duck in water from day one. A confused duck at first, but a duck paddling furiously nevertheless. Now we are all lining up behind her.
Micky, we know you are going to blow us all away. But please, not like this: