What established leaders can learn from today’s young disruptors

Ahead of the Marketing Academy’s Inspire London event on 14 April, Marketing Week asks five millennial marketers and business owners to highlight how the role of leadership is changing and what today’s leaders need to do to adapt.


Harriot Pleydell-Bouverie, chief whisk, Mallow & Marsh – a confectionery brand that makes 100% natural marshmallows.

Leadership is ever-changing. In the same way that businesses are growing and morphing around new ideas, leadership needs to be nimble and react to those we lead.

As the young of today become the leaders of tomorrow we need to work with them, develop with them and tailor our leadership to them, as they will need to for those that they go on to lead.

Leadership is fluid, it flexes to suit those that need leading and at its best, it is almost undetectable. To me, the best leaders allow a team to lead themselves. They encourage people to set their own targets, grow at their own rate, and lead them by supporting their decisions, helping them to grow and inspiring them to be the best that they can be.



Rajeeb Dey, founder and CEO, Enternships – a portal that connects students and graduates to work placements in over 6,000 startups and SMEs

Millennials, probably more than any other generation, seek far more from their lives than just money and status. They are driven by a sense of purpose and meaning in their work and lives. Leaders should assess how the work they do helps foster a greater sense of purpose in their employees, as well as customers as this is one of the key factors to attracting the best talent, as well as being an expectation from customers of brands millennials engage with.

I would encourage future leaders to embrace uncertainty and recognise that we are only ever limited by our own imagination. There are undoubtedly many challenges facing the world but challenges also present opportunities. In the words of Gandhi we should “be the change we wish to see in the world”, so if there’s something you are not satisfied with – do something about it.



George Neel, marketing manager, Smirnoff (Diageo)

When I started my first job at a multi-national FMCG company I had no idea what made a good leader. There was a pretty hard culture and a hierarchal one at that. The senior leaders I saw were as inaccessible as they were impressive and I feared talking to some of them given their status and reputation within the business.

As I have progressed through my career I have encountered a wide range of leadership styles and I have been able to distil down what to me makes a great leader. Millennials want leaders who lead by service and inspiration, rather than hierarchy alone. Our leaders need to understand us as individuals, and understand our motivations in order to maximise our productivity and potential.

A senior leader in Diageo gave me the opportunity to lead a large scale project with autonomy, with the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them. What gave me the confidence and the ambition to succeed was the fact my leader was someone I wanted to work for, and who I wanted to impress. Crucially however, they were someone who I felt I could call upon when I needed, who didn’t tell me the answers but who showed me how to get to them. Ultimately leadership is the art of getting people to want to work for you.



Daianna Karaian, founder and CEO, Thoughtful – a content hub for ‘creative generosity’ 

To the leaders of today I say that true leadership has always been and will always be about setting an example for others through your actions. Integrity, for both people and brands, is about having complete alignment between what you say and what you do. It’s about identifying and articulating your values in a way that’s meaningful. As the lynchpin between a company’s words and its actions, marketing plays a key role in brand integrity. And, as a result, in leadership.

To the leaders of tomorrow I say be brave and be bold. Don’t be afraid to incite change, to express a point of view that goes against the grain, and to say what kind of impact you want to make before you’re even sure how you’ll do it. More often that not that’s what makes a positive difference in the world and in people’s lives. Having grown up with technology that demands ever-more transparency and authenticity, in a world that requires creativity and problem solving, you have what forward-thinking brands and organisations need.



Daniel Murray, co-founder, Grabble – an app designed to help users browse, save and purchase the latest fashion in one place.

To be taken seriously, leadership is something that needs to come from a place of authenticity. Therefore it’s very hard, in my mind, to do it well unless you are leading in an area or field you are thrilled to participate and lead in. The reality is that leadership has never really changed through the centuries or decades, and in many ways the fundamentals shouldn’t in the coming years either: you need to stand for something and you’ll attract the right people.

I think we are rapidly moving in a direction towards a completely new world where no-one can really predict the impact of things like artificial intelligence and virtual reality, and in those kinds of environments a conscious attempt for quality leadership that’s authentic and comes from good people with good intentions is going to be the most simple prerequisite of sustaining a peaceful, purposeful and ultimately profitable future for companies.

Despite not knowing what the future holds, the fundamentals of how to be a good leader then won’t be different to now – put others first and care for them. That’s all leadership has ever really been about and always will be.



Harriot Pleydell-Bouverie, Daianna Karaian, George Neel, Rajeeb Dey and Daniel Murray will be speaking on a panel called “Is leadership really changing?” at the Marketing Academy’s Inspire event on 14 April.