THE BLOG

The Feminine Touch: Do Women Make Better Bosses?

28/04/2014 18:14 BST | Updated 28/06/2014 10:59 BST

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As I launch this year's initiative to help Britain's female entrepreneurs, my thoughts turn to the different leadership styles they might possess. Will the winner be a boss who embodies a more aggressive and driven style of leadership or one who works hard on the morale in the workplace?

As ambassador for Britain's Top Real Role Model (BTRRM), Amway UK's annual competition to unearth and celebrate the nation's start-up business pioneers, the aim is to boost fresh talent, ensuring it is nurtured, not stifled. Innovation drives the economy forward, which means business models with an explicit pecking order in place that perhaps use the 'stick' rather than the 'carrot' are falling further out of favour. Creativity, bravery, initiative and energy are all needed to succeed in today's tough business world, but of course the best way to avoid an unpleasant leader is to become the boss yourself.

We need to promote a new wave of creative bravery in business to make a success out of bright and talented individuals. With employment opportunities waning, the start-up arena has never been more relevant. But developing a successful business is about much more than just having a good idea and the money to back it. A good entrepreneur will also be a fabulous leader and the attributes that are most respected are a little surprising.

Recent research carried out by Amway UK revealed that over two thirds of us would prefer a female boss to a male one, with the stereotypically female attributes such as compassion, trust and loyalty coming out on top. These 'softer' attributes were favoured over more traditional ones such as courage, confidence and strong leadership. I certainly think female bosses often have a slightly more 3-D approach to business and see the bigger picture. In my experience they are often more nurturing, which helps get them get the best out of people.

The female touch in business is often misinterpreted as being soft and fluffy, but it is really about being switched on and making the most of your prime assets - your staff. You also have to be brave and it is sad to see capable, business-savvy individuals stifled and ambition made stale because of poor leadership or poor communication.

BTRRM is something I feel very strongly about as I know only too well that starting up your own business and backing your ideas confidently can be a lonely and daunting process. It takes a lot of courage, so it's crucial that we support budding entrepreneurs in order for them to flourish.

Now in its fourth year, the BTRRM campaign has handed a total of £20,000 in funding to entrepreneurs, for the business ventures they presented. It's a fantastic platform giving people who might not otherwise get a foot in the door a shot and a real opportunity to get started. I can't wait to see the finalists' ideas and share their enthusiasm and energy.

My own path had a false start as I was steered away from my love of art and ended up doing a Religious Studies degree at Edinburgh University. It wasn't long before I realised it wasn't for me and I changed direction, but it was never easy. I had to hawk my art sketch book around London colleges before being taken on at Central St. Martin's College.

I didn't have the right qualifications but someone took a chance on my energy, enthusiasm and creative promise - a rare occurrence in recruitment these days. I got a job as Alexander McQueen's assistant and it was an incredible and inspiring experience. I was working 7am to midnight most days, but you barely notice it when you are doing something you love. I graduated and went freelance and that's where I realised I had an extremely steep ladder to climb.

My experience as a company boss has shown me that if you want something you have to go and work for it but I do notice a bit more of an attitude of entitlement around nowadays. We have interns who come in expecting to be designing straight away and appear a bit confused that they have to pitch in with everything. The real world of work is very different to university. Young people need to accept that they will be working hard. They may have to make the tea - just as I did - and get on with it. We had one intern who worked her socks off, learnt where the gaps were in the business and made sure she delivered in those areas and we couldn't let her go.

I ran Twenty8twelve with my sister Sienna for seven years in what is a notoriously fickle and unforgiving industry. You need a bit of steel to go with the creativity but it is important to be a good boss as well as a good designer. Having Sienna in the business was obviously an amazing help because of the profile she has. We made a good team as she has incredible style and we share a fashion sensibility. She is a bit more avant-garde than me but it was good because it forced me to take risks.

My current label, Savannah, is about finding out what my customer wants and meeting her need. That connection is everything. I still get excited if I see someone coming down the street in one of my dresses. It is the fact they have chosen one of my designs and it means something to them.

If you have an idea which fills a gap in the market, whatever it may be, as long as you're driven and have passion and belief in it, then the best advice I can give is to be courageous, take control and give it your best shot.

TO ENTER Britain's Top Real Role Model visit www.britainstoprealrolemodel.co.uk or the Facebook page or follow @BTRRM

Nominations are now open and close on 11th August 2014. Successful shortlisted applicants will be asked to submit a brief business plan and the winner - announced in September 2014 - will be awarded £5,000 to aid their business venture.