Exemplifying a Systems Leader — Katrina Lake, CEO Stitch Fix

Systems Leadership — April 16, 2019

Robert Siegel
Apr 25 · 5 min read
Lake backed by the iconic picture of Stitch Fix’s IPO

Platform (Horizontal) + Personal (Vertical)

Great Systems Leaders need to blend how they think about building a scalable business (offering platforms that can span horizontally across many customers) while also providing enough customization to hold on to these customers over time (personalization through vertical solutions). Stitch Fix is doing both of these things by offering a way to purchase clothes at scale (providing a wide variety of options), but with highly customized input for each customer via the company’s 3,300 stylists that help end users select their wardrobes.

Blending Self Confidence with Self Awareness

Lake’s session focused on the topic of leading through uncertainty, as the types of disruptions that are confronting the fashion and retail industries are happening at the channel, product and personnel levels at the same time. Lake talked about the role of personal growth and its correlation to company growth — if the company has grown by 40%, individuals need to ask themselves if they have grown by 40% over that same period in order to scale into their positions. She talked about the notion of “re-hiring yourself” for your job, and being intellectually honest in understanding one’s own performance as a business changes.

Into the Fire — Move Towards Disruption

Lake talked about the importance of making aggressive changes and going “risk on” during times of great uncertainty. Stitch Fix’s ability to achieve disproportional growth is predicated on the notion of moving towards industry disruption and not trying to avoid the hard and uncertain parts of their business as they scale in size and complexity. The challenge, of course, is that this will lead to high volatility and uncertainty in the outcomes of the company’s actions.

Fortitude Group

Musings on Digital and Physical, Teaching, Venture Capital and Socioeconomics

Robert Siegel

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Lecturer @StanfordGSB, Seed-stage VC @XSeedCapital, @Cal undergrad, hockey/soccer fan, husband and father

Fortitude Group

Musings on Digital and Physical, Teaching, Venture Capital and Socioeconomics