As part of FN’s annual Women in Power issue, we asked 15 footwear executives who stepped into important new roles this year to talk about overcoming obstacles and their advice for the next generation.
Pri Shumate joined Columbia Sportswear on March 14 as its new chief marketing officer after serving as head of marketing experiences and the Olympics at Airbnb since June 2020. Shumate has also held marketing positions at the World Surf League, Nike and Hurley.
Here, Shumate discusses her leadership philosophies, becomes an effective communicator, and is open to different management styles.
My leadership mantra:
“I don’t really have a leadership ‘mantra’, but I do have two philosophies, both tied to my deep belief that great teams create great business results. 1.) Transparency is the key to great team performance. Leaders can’t expect teams to perform at their best if they don’t clearly understand (and align with) the what and why. Without transparency, there is no understanding of how their work fits into the bigger picture, and without that, the team’s potential is limited. As leaders, we need to entrust information to our teams. And 2.) Fairness and love are the keys to great teams. We are all human, first and foremost. Leaders can be demanding, intense, direct, but they have to treat people right. It means with respect, fairness and (why not?) love.
My biggest opportunity and my biggest challenge:
“My biggest opportunity at Columbia is to leverage the consumer confidence and commercial momentum we have in the marketplace to elevate brand DNA, create deeper connections with consumers, and inspire them to get out there! ” Quality and creativity (both fueled by relentless problem solving) are the biggest parts of our DNA – so we’ll double down on that!
We have so much we can leverage inside this brand (from people, to products, to stories of constant innovation), my biggest challenge will be knowing where to start!”
The biggest professional obstacle I faced and how I overcame it:
“I grew up in Brazil, a lower middle class kid, divorced parents, and had to learn to hustle for almost anything I wanted. I moved to the United States in pursuit of the American dream and I landed at Texas A&M University with $4,000 in the bank. It had to last a whole year or I was going home. So I had to work even harder.
These early experiences certainly influenced my approach to life and later my leadership style. I have always been very passionate about my work and the work of my teams and at the start of my career I wanted people to understand and love him as much as I did. But in corporate America, sometimes passion has to be tamed, and you have to prick up your ears and tweak your message if you want to be an effective communicator. So I had to learn how to channel that passion and eagerness over time. I also had to show people that I was listening to them – even though I had always been, my style got in the way of other people’s eyes. Sometimes I regret taming my passionate style as much as I do, but I don’t regret letting others know that I listened to them and took their input to heart. Listening and learning from others has become an invaluable skill and the biggest contributor to my success. »
Advice for women at the start of their career:
“Above the career, there is something called life. As much as possible, try to align your career with your life, not the other way around. The happier you are, the better your job will be. »
One thing I wish someone had told me:
“I wish someone would tell me that diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) is still not a widespread reality. Accept early that as a woman you will have to deal with it at some point The more aware you are, the more you can adapt, adjust or challenge yourself, and help create a world where DE&I becomes a reality for everyone, not just women. One of the greatest expressions of diversity is leadership style. Different backgrounds, genders, races, etc. make different leaders. Make sure you are open to different leadership styles in your career. Many companies try yet mold their diverse teams into ONE preferred leadership style, and that goes against the entire diversity and inclusion principles.
The leader who had the most impact on me and why:
“I’m not sure I can identify a single leader who had the MOST impact on me. But some things from some leaders stuck with me over the years. Nike had a CMO named Davide Grasso. He was this super smart and cool Italian character who enjoyed luxury brands and luxury cars (he’s now the CEO of Maserati). But he knew and understood consumers from all walks of life. And he always told us that “something is premium when you exceed consumer expectations”. This always stuck with me as it implied that premium was relative and knowing your target consumer was paramount. It reinforced the curiosity I already had for consumers and allowed me to never lose sight of who I was serving and what mattered to them.