The Leader you want to be

Everyone recognizes a bad leader, but what makes a truly good leader? Here’s what I found whilst listening to four female leaders at a diversity event.

Woman punching air with hands tied for boxing gloves

A journey into bravery (and marketing)

Spikes Asia was packed with many examples of great marketing campaigns and a whole series of brilliant speakers, a really inspirational must attend event for any marketer. During the Wednesday breakfast session with Shekar Khosla (Chief Commercial Officer, Kellogg’s) he talked about being bold & brave.
He noted that it was important to have the courage to do the right thing. Wait…. why should we need “courage” to do the right thing? Surely “doing the right thing” is what our parents & schools have been teaching us to do since we were children? Why does it suddenly need so much extra effort when we’re in the workplace? Do we need to hold a leadership position to be courageous? Why does this seem to contradict so much that we’ve been taught?

The Reality

The reality is that boldness & bravery are very far away from conformity & safety. Doing something different puts you at risk of failure, which no one likes (Be honest!) – but could it really jeopardize that next promotion you’re looking for? Or worse, line you up for termination? Hopefully not! Aren’t marketers hired to think differently, innovate and make noise?

Fear, is why marketers stick to tried and tested formulas, staying “safe” with campaigns that will deliver the same “safe”, expected results. After all, nobody ever got fired for following the standard process, right… ?

Champions of Bravery

Good leaders need to encourage their teams to take risks like the Starship Enterprise, “Boldly go where no one has gone before”, and just like Captain Kirk, they need to protect their teams with fanaticism, so that there’s no fear of being penalized for those risks.

That doesn’t mean you’re providing a license for mayhem. The risks that you’re taking need to be aligned to your corporate strategic goals and measured. Perhaps the simplest way to check if it’s the right direction is just to ask is this a topic we want to have an opinion on?

Ask yourself: “Is this a topic we want to have an opinion on? Do we want to be part of this conversation?”

Yes, there will always be trolls, but it doesn’t matter what you’re doing, taking a stand on any meaningful issue will always provoke a reaction from some-group-or-the-other. Consider the recent Nike endorsement of Colin Kaepernick, yes there were people burning Nike products, but sales, social chatter are up considerably and customer happiness is back to normal levels. The endorsement was brave, bold – and in line with it’s history of taking a stand in social issues. It was purposeful.


As a leader you’ll need to make hard decisions every day. Bravery is not about feminism, disabilities or whatever the social topic of the day is; it’s being strong enough to confidently embrace purposeful controversy & standing behind your team so that they can take risky, change making steps.


Photo by Sarah Cervantes on Unsplash

Busy man with many hands

Do you have a minute, to achieve your own goals?

There’s always something that’s demanding your time. People and things that fill up your calendar. You’re busy, you’re in demand, and that makes you feel good. Is everything relevant though? Do you need to be in all those meetings? Could somebody else handle some of those? Does anything on your calendar for today, contribute to your end-of-year goal?

Project managers use critical path analysis all the time. It’s how they focus on what’s important, and make sure there’s no time wasted on activities that aren’t essential to moving forward. If you’re unfamiliar with it, it’s worth taking 10 minutes out of your day to learn about it. It’ll save you a lot more time and effort than 10 minutes.  

Sure we’re not all project managers, but in essence it boils down to asking yourself “Is this next activity going to help achieve my end-of-year-goal?”  

Just because you can add value to something doesn’t mean that you should. You’ve got a goal, there’s steps/milestones you need to achieve. Look at your calendar, and all those other demands for your attention – only do them if they’re on your critical path for success.

Try it for a week and let me know if it helps you move the needle.