Trends & insights
Sep 27, 20215 min read

5 leadership principles from Mindy Grossman, CEO of WW International.

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by Klarna

Klarna is on Clubhouse! Follow our club, Your Move, where we sit down with the most influential voices worldwide for conversations about the topics that matter most—from entrepreneurship and retail to sustainability and financial wellness.

Mindy Grossman, President and CEO of WW International (formerly Weight Watchers) joined Klarna’s Head of Strategy, Natalia Brezinski, on Clubhouse for the latest installment of “How Dare She,” a conversation series focused on flipping the traditional narrative on the hardships of being a woman in the modern world, in favor of a more celebratory and raw conversation about the joys, wins, and general wonder of womanhood.

Grossman began her career in fashion, helping turn brands like Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren into major leaders in the industry. She next went to Nike, evolving it into a global apparel company, and launching the NikeWomen stores and products. Grossman then became CEO of HSN, shaping it into a powerhouse shopping channel and led the network to an IPO in 2008. She switched fields once more in 2017, becoming the CEO and President of Weight Watchers, now WW International.

Below, we’ve recapped 5 leadership principles she uses to inform her decisions and credits for shaping her career for the better.

Focus on rituals.

Grossman noted throughout her career, but especially during the pandemic, she “focuses more on rituals.” Doing so has helped her avoid distractions and feel more purposeful on a day-to-day basis.

She also emphasized rituals don’t have to be big. “Rituals can be like, I FaceTime my daughter and granddaughter every day. Or a New York Times crossword puzzle contest with my husband. Or, every day I have a different one-on-one with someone from my company.”

Transformation needs to be actually transformational.

“Transformation is one of the most overused words in business,” Grossman pointed out, “You can’t just come out with a new mission statement and you’ve transformed. [Transformation] is wholesale radical change. And it’s never going to be a linear journey. It’s extreme volatility. You have to do a lot of things to transform.”

For Grossman and WW, that included moving an iconic, 50-year-old company from a pure weight-focus business to a more holistic approach to all of health, with weight and diet being only a part of the process.  To do this, the WW team had to develop more approaches centered on supporting members through their personal journeys and less on snapshot results. Grossman even banned the use of the famed “Before/After” pictures, wanting to emphasize the path to success versus the end results. Instead, in the few times when those kinds of messages would have been used, WW focuses on “Then” and “Now,” because the journey is always continuing and there’s always more to come.

Don’t be afraid to ask: Why can’t it?

When Barry Diller approached Grossman about taking on the CEO role at HSN, she had no background in TV, no D2C experience, and minimal connection to the brands currently selling on the network. So she spent time researching the brand and found herself most engaged when the entertainment value of the shows matched and even trumped, the product parts. She had a simple, but revolutionary realization: Why can’t HSN be about editorial programmed commerce, not selling?

This question and maintaining an ‘open-to-change’ mindset led Diller to give her the job, and Grossman went on to turn the company—which had cycled through 7 CEOs in 10 years—into one of the most successful shopping platforms in the world, boosting share prices more than 500% along the way.

Passion and agility.

Prior to the pandemic, WW was running more than 30,000 workshops around the world, every day. When the world shut down during the pandemic, those meetings were forced to close—but Grossman and WW remained focused on supporting their members and being there for them, regardless of their situation.

Grossman gathered up her technology teams, the supply chain folks, and others in the organization and only six days later, all 30,000 daily meetings had been moved onto virtual platforms

“And that’s what really showed we are a purpose-driven culture—we weren’t going to leave our members without support—and it also enabled us to move more quickly and do something that would have probably taken us several years to do.”

Vulnerability is strength.

When you share vulnerabilities and are “willing to share the good, the bad, and the ugly, you get people humanized—and that way they can then share, and then you can ignite and really build [company] culture.”

“If you used the word vulnerability ten years ago people would consider it a weakness. Vulnerability in leadership is one of the greatest strengths today,” Grossman emphasized.

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