An Open Letter: Attributes of an Emerging Leader

MediaCom global ECD Gemma Hunter
By MediaCom global ECD Gemma Hunter | 6 September 2018
Gemma Hunter

Dear Emerging Leaders,

You are on one of the greatest journeys of your life, a journey that starts today and will never end. A journey on which you will encounter many obstacles, where it’s likely you will stumble and lose your way several times, one where along the way you will meet people who will guide and support you, and others who will try and trip you up, or give you the wrong directions.

On this journey of leadership there is one voice you must listen to above all the others: your own, for it is your journey and your choice on how you navigate it.

Today I’ll share some map references for the journey, this is collective wisdom from me and leaders whom I truly respect and that in fact is Tip One. Surround yourself with leaders you can both learn from and debate with. People who focus on their leadership skills often and in earnest, those leaders will nurture and grow other great leaders because they understand that great leaders work for their teams not, the other way around.

The first step in your leadership journey is the biggest, from manager level (where your focus is enabling and facilitating those in your team to complete tasks to the best of their ability,) to Director level, (where your focus shifts to taking your people somewhere they have never been before), seeing and guiding the potential in them so they can achieve all they can be as individuals, together you will become a high-performance team.

Tip two – invest in yourself

Yes, some of leadership is innate ability and instinct. I used to think that was most of it, today I know for sure it’s an equal balance of instinct, awareness and continual learning/knowledge seeking. So, seek out the opportunities to invest in your leadership skills, read, find great mentors and peers whose leadership styles you respect and spend time regularly with them. Put yourself through training that will test and challenge you, so that you can reach your potential as a leader.

A few years ago, after a small battle with cancer that annoyingly took a lot of my energy, I’d lost myself as a leader. I felt I had nothing left to give my team. I needed a reboot, inspiration and a mental challenge other than ‘fuck you cancer’. I got onto The Marketing Academy Future Leaders program  and it was a game changer. I came out the other side with a new sense of purpose, a clarity on what leadership means to me, both as a leader myself and in those leaders I seek to surround myself with. The tips here are collaboratively formed with the amazing Marketing Academy class of 2016 and a handful of other leaders whose wisdom I value.

Tip three – be aware of your impact

Be fully aware and cognisant of the perceptions your actions are creating. This is especially so when groups of leaders within a business come together - their interactions and how they communicate has huge ramifications across the business and sets cultural benchmarks.

Realise that everything you do is interpreted. That poor behaviour you tolerate from one team member, that’s the standard you are willing to accept, it’s telling the rest of the team that poor performance is ok. The things you say you’ll do but don’t deliver on, become a lack of credibility. No-one follows a leader for long who lacks credibility.

Tip three – the answer is not the answer

Have you come across the drama triangle? if not check it out here and ask yourself if you are always giving your team the answer what are you teaching them? As a leader you should be ‘always on’ in coaching mentality, asking the questions that enable your team to solve the challenge themselves. This will both help them get into a permanent mindset of thinking strategically and build a relationship of mutual trust and respect between you.

Tip five – seek to understand the individual and listen deeply

The better you get to know your people, their drives, motivations and preferred communication style, the more you will understand them and the more you understand them, the more effectively you will be able to lead them. This coupled with deep listening is invaluable. What’s deep listening I hear you ask? It’s really hearing someone, it’s the difference between a 1 to 1 where you are going through the motions of ‘letting someone get their problems off their chest’ and a shared feedback session where you seek the opportunity to work together on development for great impact. This book and podcast series on deep listening is a great resource.

Tip six - your time matters

In today’s fast paced and ever-changing world there is more and more pressure being put on all of us, balancing our own mental and physical well-being with the ability to be both task and people focused is a daily challenge for almost everyone in marketing leadership. Brilliantly put by Chloe Jones at Princess Cruises ‘Is the Juice worth the Squeeze,' ask yourself the value of what you are faced with before you prioritise your attention.

If things don’t go 100% to plan, give yourself a break, accept it’s less what happens today, but more how you deal with it that counts, and what people notice. You can reframe everything that doesn’t go right as another moment to learn and that will naturally make you a more resilient leader.  Please, make time to breath, rest and rejuvenate as an exhausted or stressed out leader is no use to anyone. Realise that rest and fun are just as vital as looming deadlines.

Thanks to the contributors to this open letter for emerging leaders; Stewart Gurney at PHD, Jeff Miller at CommBank, Claire Tenzer at TBWA, Claire Salvetti at One Green Bean, Sergio Brodsky at Initiative, Jeci David At Kellogg Australia, Tracy Hall at GoDaddy, Chloe Jones at Princess Cruises and Ben McCallum and Nicole Boyd at MediaCom.

From all of us, we wish you a wondrous journey,

By MediaCom global ECD Gemma Hunter

Gemma will be appearing at our October 24 Lessons In Leadership event on October 24th in Sydney. Early bird tickets priced at $279.00 are still available here.

We will also unveil our first Emerging Leaders list online next week. Keep your eyes peeled.

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