Creating a recipe for a strong, successful team

Leading marketers share their thoughts on getting the most from their team members, building on innate management ability with training and coping with the recession.


The Panel (l-r above)

Ann Cairns, president, international markets at MasterCard Worldwide
Jon Goldstone, vice president brand building, foods and ice cream at Unilever UK and Ireland and Marketing Academy mentor
Michael O’Hara, chief marketing officer at GSMA (trade association that represents mobile operators worldwide)
Caroline Taylor, vice president marketing, communications and citizenship at IBM UK & Ireland
Stewart Pedler, former director of operations, global brand marketing at Thomson Reuters
Allyson Stewart-Allen, co-author of ‘Working with Americans’ and Marketing Academy lecturer

Marketing Week (MW): How would you characterise your leadership style?

Jon Goldstone (JG): I try to be as true to myself as I possibly can be. I have an authentic leadership style. I certainly don’t pretend to be somebody that I’m not.

Caroline Taylor (CT): I’m not a corporate clone because I’m a big advocate of the concept of authentic leadership. People that work with me would not see me any differently if they encountered me socially or in another walk of life. I have a responsibility on behalf of IBM to lead the team to be successful from a business objective perspective and also to develop the skills and talents of individual team members. I also try to get that balance of hope and vision of where we are going but firmly embed it in the reality of the here and now.

Stewart Pedler (SP): I’ve been told that I have a unique and zany style. It’s people that drive business forward, so behind every bit of technology, automation and process you still need good people to set things up and make things happen. If you are going to lead people, you need to motivate and inspire them. I achieve this in my own way. It may be zany but the aim is to keep people on their toes, create an energy and buzz and strive together to be better and achieve more.

Ann Cairns (AC): I’m tough but fair and have an open style. I set the bar high for people and challenge them but I am also supportive. Although I’m good at delegating, I’ll remain in touch with people and help them through things. I think that’s very important.

Michael O’Hara (MH): I engage with the team, build relationships and get them moving in the right direction. In marketing there is so much hype around the latest thing, but for me it is more about delivering against a set of objectives.


MasterCard and Unilever, whose brands include Marmite and Surf, believe developing leaders in-house helps the business to thrive

Allyson Stewart-Allen (ASA):

My style is generally consultative, asking questions rather than being the one who has all the answers. I don’t assume I know everything but that I have part of the answer, as do other people.

MW: What are the main characteristics you need to be an effective leader?

CT: An important one is being able to inspire and enthuse people around a vision, whether it is directional or for the future, that makes them want to follow you and come with you in whatever direction that may be.

SP: Be authentic. You have to make tough decisions; be the one that has those difficult conversations with people when needed; and act as a mentor and a manager that people respect. Most importantly, you need to be genuine – someone people can identify with, believe in and trust. Without being authentic, people won’t want to follow you.

ASA: To be an effective marketing leader, you really have to be a good listener. It means knowing that how you’re perceived is the reality, rather than your own view of yourself. Effective leaders are also excellent communicators. You have to tell the story of why you want the organisation to move in a particular direction, what moves it needs to make to get to that destination and what the reward will be. You have to like selling ideas to people – influencing and persuading – which requires a desire to understand others. So selfish, egotistical people generally do poorly at leadership as a result.

MH: You need to have clear goals of what you are trying to achieve and the ability to do it with very little, particularly in today’s environment. There is too much reliance on agencies and consultants. I look for teams that are able to just get a job done. The first thing I say to people is that they have to be a technology addict – be able to understand this stuff and use it. Everything that’s happening in marketing today is based on technology – whether it’s social or mobile.

MW: Do you think leadership can be learnt?

JG: It’s something that constantly evolves in any individual, no matter how senior they are within a business. Most people in organisations get training and meet different leaders along the way and take different things from them, so I think it’s something that you get better at with experience throughout a career.

AC: I don’t think you are born on day one as a leader. Life experiences shape you into the leader you become. You can learn to minimise things that are difficult for you or get better at them. You can also learn different styles – the way to present yourself or the way to speak. Leadership is very much part of your personality, and your experiences shape that.

MH: You can learn the skills but so much of leadership is based around the personal relationship you have with your team and the ability to get people to follow you. I’m not sure that is something that can be taught. Core skills can be taught and learnt but there are also indefinable things that make people very successful that are innate.

CT: I think it can be improved upon and enhanced but my observation is that there are some people who just do not have innate leadership capabilities. It’s unlikely that you will be a great leader if you are, for example, very self-absorbed or self-obsessed and straightforward looking. I don’t think you can train those things out of people. When you look at people who are great leaders they have honed and perfected it but they also have innate leadership qualities.

MW: Have you adapted your leadership style during the recession?

JG: Not particularly. Being consistent in the way that you lead is important, otherwise people get confused if there is a sudden change in your style. In recessionary times, life gets more complicated because there are so many changes going on and being able to provide calm during a period of change is a really important leadership priority. I have tried to focus on staying calm and getting people focused on the right thing and steering a fairly steady ship.

AC: You don’t have to adapt your style as much as you need to adapt your business strategy according to how the markets behave. I think your leadership style remains the same. In my case, I went from working in banking into restructuring [Cairns led Lehman Brothers through the Chapter 11 bankruptcy process while at restructuring company Alvarez and Marsal] so I like to be in the thick of things and be out solving problems.

SP: Successful leaders need to focus more on individuals and ensure that they remain committed and motivated. As the recession draws on, morale is falling so it’s important to focus on this more. When things pick up, the focus can shift to other things.

MW: How do you think your leadership style might develop in the coming 12 months?

MH: The core way we try to lead the team is around delivery-based objectives and getting the most out of what you have. I don’t think that necessarily changes over time. It’s about setting clear objectives and getting those done.

CT: I am constantly on a learning path to understand the implications of my actions and how they affect the people that I lead. That’s a lifelong journey. I will continue to do what I have been doing for a number of years, which is to make an effort to engage one-on-one with people throughout the organisation to understand how what we do and the way we do it impacts on them and is experienced by them.

SP: In the world of doing more with less it’s all about being imaginative and resourceful. As a leader, this can translate into thinking of new and innovative goals for people. I am going to be focused on bringing more people together to talk to one another and collaborate on ideas and activities to achieve business goals. Good communication is key right now.

AC: In order to thrive in the business world in the future, we have to develop great leaders inside our company. During the next 12 months, a lot of my role will be making sure that the people that work for me, plus the people underneath them are getting all the opportunities that they need and the development and help that they need to help run this company in the future.

MW: What can you do if your leadership style is challenged by colleagues?

AC: The important thing is that you never let yourself get to a place where you give up on things that are really important to you. For example, integrity, fairness, or your sense of self. You have to preserve that but then adapt your style so that it makes you effective with the people you are working with.

SP: It really depends on what aspect of your personal style is being challenged but you should definitely take time to sit down and listen to what is being said, rather than talk. You can then determine whether you need to adapt your style. I’ve found in the past that most challenges involve a lack of understanding, so being open, authentic and communicative can help to prevent this.

MH: You always get challenges and issues coming up in workplaces. Professionalism in your interactions is the key. Try to explain what it is you are attempting to deliver, then get it done and I think the challenges drift away.

JG: The key thing is to stay true to yourself and be consistent. If you do those two things people will respect your integrity and you won’t be challenged because they will realise you have a positive intent.

CT: A colleague once said to me, “Caroline, you really need to adopt a more serious persona. It will hold you back if you don’t”. I’ve chosen not to take that advice because it isn’t me. Constructive criticism is always worth listening to but you need to have the confidence that your style works and ask yourself “has my leadership style served me well thus far?”.

Leadership and mentoring from the Marketing Academy

The Marketing Academy, supported by Marketing Week, develops marketers into leaders through mentoring, coaching and experiential learning. Each year, it looks for up to 30 talented people in the industry for its scholarship programme. More than 80 high-profile business leaders, including panel member Jon Goldstone from Unilever, volunteer their time to nurture the careers of the scholars who join the programme.

This year the Marketing Academy will launch its fellowship programme, which will give marketing directors the tools they need to move on to boards where ultimately they could become managing directors or chief executives.

Top Tips for becoming a business leader

  • Reuters-Building

    Work for a company that shares your values – it’s easier to fulfil your potential.
    Andy Duncan, managing director, Camelot

  • Make sure you finish the job. Sometimes there can be a lot of talk and not much action. Don’t be one of those people. Also, don’t ask anyone to do something that you are not prepared to do yourself. Be open to new ways of doing things. Listen to other people’s ideas and incorporate the best ones.
    Stewart Pedler, director of operations at Thomson Reuters
  • It’s quite difficult to be an effective leader if you’ve had a very narrow career path. I highly recommend that you develop yourself so that you have both depth and breadth because it gives you the credibility to be able to lead authentically.
    Caroline Taylor, vice president of marketing, communications and citizenship at IBM
  • Know your followers and what motivates and engages them. Be self-aware and show your allowable weaknesses to be even more real and engaging. Listen to your followers, meet them often, face-to-face, to tell them they’re valued.
    llyson Stewart-Allen, founder of International Marketing Partners
  • Be true to yourself and don’t try to be somebody you think an organisation wants you to be, as everyone will see through your act very quickly. Also, be clear about when you are managing and when you are leading. It is very easy in the early stages of your career not to understand the difference between what is management and what is leadership.
    Jon Goldstone, vice president brand building, foods and ice cream at Unilever UK and Ireland
  • You have to be somebody who attracts good people and feels really good about working with people who are talented and challenge you. You should have a lot of self knowledge and feel comfortable with who you are, so as you try to change things in the business world you have the self confidence to actually implement that change and see it through.
    Ann Cairns, president, international markets at MasterCard



    Leave a comment