Forever 21 CEO On Embracing Progress Over Perfection

By Nikara Johns

Winnie Park was tapped as Forever 21’s chief executive in January after holding the top spot at Paper Source for the past six years.

Here, she opens up about obstacles in her career, being a self-aware leader, embracing progress over perfection, and the women who inspire her.

My leadership mantra

“My aspiration is to be a conscious leader — to be self-aware, to be vulnerable, and to always be curious. I think these skills are particularly important as a leader when you are just trying to learn, fit in and drive change in organizations. I am keenly aware that there is so much talent around me at Forever 21 and the key is to unleash all the creative talent and passion my teams have for the brand and for what they love: fashion.”

Battling with perfection and how I overcame it

“When I was younger in my career, I strived to be perfect. At one point, my mentor and the CEO of my company told me that perfection was getting in the way of my peers liking me and wanting me to succeed. This hit me hard but he was right. If you strive for perfection, you put up this wall, a façade, and your colleagues can’t really know the true you and you can’t ask for help without seeming weak. By not asking for help you only hurt yourself and you miss all the fun of working alongside other perfectly imperfect people who can teach you so much. It’s a lot of wasted energy maintaining perfection. Making progress, on the other hand, is so fulfilling.”

Advice for women starting out in their careers

“Try to find a vocation, not just a job. A vocation is a calling, something genius. Find something that makes your heart beat fast and your mind race. Don’t focus too much on title and money as these things come when you excel at something you love.”


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