Level Up: Clinique’s Global GM Is Paving the Way for Latina Leaders

We learned so much in just five minutes.

Level Up

Design by Cristina Cianci

Welcome to Byrdie's new series, Level Up, where Byrdie's SVP and GM Leah Wyar shines a light on some of the smartest, most successful women and woman-aligned leaders in the beauty, wellness, and style industries. While climbing up the career ladder looks different for everyone, those near the top usually share one common strength: management, not just of their direct reports, but of those above them as well. But management—in all its forms—is one of the hardest skills to master and can take years of practice. The intent of our three-question column? To skip the small talk and surface the skills and practices to level up your most successful self.

Kicking off our column: Michelle Freyre, senior vice president and global general manager of Clinique at The Estée Lauder Companies, where she is responsible for the brand’s strategic vision (everything from innovation, product development, and marketing to driving consumer and digital engagement). An award-winning Latina business executive for over two decades, she is passionate about talent development and helping to create professional environments that elevate inclusion and diversity. And now, Michelle’s mindset on work-life balance, proactive mentorship, self-care, and, of course, the management trifecta.  

Michelle Freyre Resume Graphic

Design by Cristina Cianci

Michelle, we are so thrilled to profile you in our very first Level Up column. First, what are your secrets to successfully managing down, aka, your team?

I have three principles for managing my team, which now extends to the 107 global markets where Clinique lives.

  • No micromanaging. I hire people whom I deeply trust and who, frankly, are smarter than me. My job is to remove barriers so they can run.
  • I’ve got my team’s back, and I need to make sure they feel that always. This security creates a culture of learning and freedom to take risks. It allows my team to know sometimes we are going to make mistakes, but the only way to drive change is to push ourselves to chart new territory.
  • I want to understand my team’s whole life—not just their professional persona but also their personal pressures. [That way] I can support them, both in and out of the office. Today’s work/life boundaries have never been blurrier, and I want to create a culture where everyone can come to work as their most authentic self.

Same question, but the reverse: How do you smartly manage up?

Having a deep sense of accountability and being a thoughtful, active listener. I am always open to feedback from those who are more senior than me and [want to] learn from their experience and perspectives. However, when it comes to challenges that can potentially impact our business, I believe in radical transparency with senior management. My mantra is #NoSurprises. I let them know I have a plan of action and a sense of urgency. In other words, I’m on it!

As a Latina business executive, I am deeply passionate about professional mentorship at Clinique. So much onus is placed on young people to find mentors, but I believe it is my responsibility to seek out young talent and sponsor their growth. I want both junior team members and my senior executive team to see beauty executives who look and sound like me. My hope is to help pave the way forward for a new generation of Latina leaders. 

As a fellow mom of two, I’d love to hear how you manage yourself, your stress—all of it! What can you share?

clinique lipstick

Clinique

First, I do things to build and project confidence. Even in this Zoom environment, I wear my signature red lip every day—Clinique Pop Lip Colour in Peppermint Pop—to feel feminine and fierce.

I must make time for self-care to sustain my energy for both my career and my family. I take many meetings on a treadmill throughout the day to get my 10,000 steps in. I eat healthy snacks throughout the day, so I am not starving and eating junk food. I must sleep seven hours at night. And when I need to give my brain a break, I curl up on the couch with a sappy Hallmark rom-com.

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