March 2011

Lisa Kind - Editor

Off the Top | by Kimberly Johnson


Leadership Levels of a Stylist

Strong leadership can do so many positive things for an organization, and can often turn mediocre teams into great teams. Studying and utilizing tools to help managers expand into higher levels of leadership is important.

When one hears the word leadership, one tends to think of those leaders who carry the typical titles of manager, key holder, director, etc. However, I believe as stylists you must learn the levels of leadership and learn how to "lead" your customers in order to build your business. I have taken the five levels of leadership in management and transferred the concept into Five Leadership Levels of a Stylist.

Level One -- Position (Because I Am a Stylist)

The stylist starts their career with position leadership due to certification: "I am a Certified Cosmetologist; therefore, I know all about hair." This is the basic, entry-level stage of leadership. The only influence you have as a stylist comes with this first title. For example, a parent tells a child to do something that the child does not want to do. The child asks the parent, "Why?" and the parent replies, "Because I am the parent, that's why." Of course, this entry-level leadership works only to a certain extent. If you stay at this level, your success will be finite — you will not develop yourself or build your business.

Level Two -- Relationship (Let's be Friends)

The next level of leadership is attained through interpersonal relationships. Many friendships bloom in this leadership stage. This is where customers say, "I will support you because I like you and you seem to care about me." This stage has many feel-good qualities, but if a stylist is stuck here, their leadership becomes based more on relationships than the services provided. Hence, this can lead their customer into boredom, uninspired hair, and ultimately leaving your service to find another.

Level Three -- Production (Only I Can Do this for You)

The third level of leadership happens when the stylist leads by delivering superior technical results. The stylist has "done it" and can "walk the walk" (or in the styling world, "cut the cut"). A stylist may feel unstoppable and strong with their technical ability, but they must enjoy this level of leadership and success without becoming trapped. If a stylist stops here, they might begin to lose their focus on guest service. They may inadvertently "expect" the guest to be satisfied due to their consistent technical results.

Level Four -- Consultation (Hear and Provide a Solution)

The fourth level of leadership is one to celebrate. The stylist is so comfortable with their technical and customer service skills that they are now able to hear a client's need and provide a solution to meet the client's short and long-term goals. Selfless recommendations are dominant during this stage and given with great intent. The stylist has evolved to merge technical skill, customer service, and their ability to influence a customer for a win-win solution every time.

Level Five -- Iconic

This is the final stage of leadership and one that, unfortunately many do not reach. A stylist at this level is able to lead by expertise in their knowledge, their craft, and their inspiration. This person is sought after because of the difference they make in peoples lives, whether as masters in education, global artists, creative directors, etc. People follow these leaders because of who they are and what they represent. Only the few leaders who have spent years growing themselves make it to this step, and those who do are bigger than life.

I hope you have enjoyed the Five Leadership Levels of a Stylist. Please feel free to write me with your thoughts on these topics, as I look forward to delving into each level in more detail throughout the year.

Kimberly Johnson is a successful Cosmetology School owner in Portland, Oregon.  In addition, she serves as Director of Business Development, overseeing a local 12 million dollar salon spa operation with 250 employees with four locations.  To reach Kimberly email her at



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