Up Close with Cheryl Joannides, General Manager, Estée Lauder Companies (Malaysia)

Cheryl joined the organization in 1995 and throughout her tenure, took on roles of increasing responsibility in various brands across the Estée Lauder Companies portfolio. Cheryl joins the Estée Lauder Companies (Malaysia) from Jo Malone London, UK where she was the General Manager.

1. How would you describe your management style?

I would describe my leadership style as optimistic, innovative and consistently trying to empower those around me to make decisions and step outside of their comfort zones. The Estée Lauder Companies’ culture is rooted in its family values and we embrace diversity and respect individuals from all backgrounds and cultures. I strive to lead by example by prioritizing work life balance and encouraging the same of my team.

2. What inspires you the most and why? How have you incorporated that into your daily life?

Our President and CEO Fabrizio Freda is one of the most inspirational people I have had the pleasure of spending time with. Fabrizio is unique in that his passion is teaching, and when he gives feedback, he speaks with such clarity and vision. He has an incredible way of connecting all the dots – across channels, across countries, across regions, across brands and across functions – and he believes in encouraging all our employees to lead from every chair. It has become a way of life for us at The Estée Lauder Companies, to encourage creativity and leadership from everyone who works with us.

3. How do you see your organization changing in two years, and how do you see yourself creating/being a part of that change?

The world and retail environment have been in a constant state of change for the last few years, and that the velocity of change is increasing! It’s critical that we lead and embrace that change and act with agility by consistently transforming to stay relevant. I have worked at The Estée Lauder Companies for many years, and many of the roles available in the organization today did not exist a few years ago. It’s important that we anticipate that change and ensure we have the right teams, with the right skills and talents to help us embrace it.

4. Tell me about an accomplishment or a memorable incident that shaped your career.

I am extremely proud of my career and that I have consistently stepped outside of my comfort zone into a new and bigger role over my 24 years with The Estée Lauder Companies. I have worked my way up through the company across many channels, countries and brands. Each role has been exciting, and I have fully embraced the learning opportunities and personal and professional growth the company has offered to me. I suppose one of my biggest achievements was moving to South Africa at 28 years old and launching M·A·C, building the brand store by store, person by person, city by city. It really taught me every aspect of retail from end to end, and I am delighted that M·A·C is now one of the leading brands in South Africa.

5. What would we be surprised to learn about you?

I love food and exercise (the latter to combat the other!), and I have completely embraced local food – the spicier the better!

6. What book are you reading or podcast you most recommend?

I always have a couple of books on the go, some light reading and something more challenging and developmental. I just finished a delightful book Eleonor Olifant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, and I’m also reading the Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant. I heard him speak a couple of times, and I love that he encourages diversity of thought by working with a team of “originals” who think differently and therefore constantly keep a company innovating and challenging the norm.

7. What do you do for fun?

My favourite thing is hanging out with my husband Al and kids Jack (15) and Ella (12). Humour and fun is our modus operandi, and we love to travel, dine out, play games and generally make each other laugh. I am so proud of their agility to adapt to a new environment, and they have completely embraced Kuala Lumpur and love living in Malaysia. As a working, travelling mom, their support is critical, and they keep me young at heart and grounded.