Lessons for the next generation of media leaders

Lessons for the next generation of media leaders
The Future of Media

We often ask successful leaders how they got to where they are today. And the answer? Instilling values, continuing to learn, and helping others to grow, according to a recent discussion by current media leaders at Mediatel’s The Future of Media event.

Here are their five tips for leadership hopefuls.

Show off your versatility

According to Natalie Cummins (pictured, main image), CEO at Publicis Groupe media agency Zenith, cultivating your pitching skills and being versatile are key for any aspiring agency leaders.

“The best way to move out of middle management is to get stuck in with new business – if you’re not good at pitching, you’ll find it hard to move up,” she explained. “Versatility is also important – people aren’t looking for square pegs, but for the people you can put on any account, who will run it their own way, and make a success of it.”

Focus on finding your own values and your own people

Professional career paths are different today than they were even 20 years ago. Today, most will end their journey in a completely different company from where they started.

In light of this, Ed Couchman, Managing Director EMEA at Snap, suggested: “Decide what your values are and let that guide and shape where you work and your own personal network. A by-product of remote working is that you don’t always have the same human relationships, but these are important to help and support you in times of need.”

Learn to unlearn

Panellist Andy Hart, founder at MailOnline and a former VP at Microsoft, noted that “you only know 10% of what you think you know”. Looking back at his own experiences, he stressed the importance of humility, getting a hang of the basics, and the value of a worthy instructor.

“You need to find a good teacher – when I found the right mentor, my world changed – and really learn the craft and the rules. Then you need to unlearn the rules because great leaders are innovators who can look at the rules and say, ‘How can I improve this, the company, the people, the processes?’ And as you to start to look outwards and get more senior, ‘How can I improve the industry?’”

(L-R: Couchman, Sinclair, Hart)


Progression doesn’t need to be a straightforward path

With a diverse professional background that includes military intelligence, waitressing, portrait painting, and global strategy, Shula Sinclair, CSO EMEA & WW at mSix&Partners’s advice to think about progression in a different way was probably not surprising.

“Don’t assume progress is linear,” she stressed. “In fact, when you are able to draw upon a wider field of experience across different contexts, it might give you additional leverage when pitching, building a network, and opening up opportunities. Follow your curiosity and don’t be bogged down by climbing the next step of the ladder.”

Help others grow and cultivate diversity

The final piece of advice from the panel shifted towards how companies and leaders should treat and serve their staff to build the company they need. Sinclair warned employers not to expect people to show up with all the skills they needed: “Maybe the onus is on agencies to educate and train their employees.”

Couchman agreed: “There are shortages in some sectors like technology and augmented reality (AR), so hire for potential and then teach them the necessary skills.”

Cummins also highlighted the benefits of diversity, and how this had served her company in particular: “You need all sorts and different skills, so go for diversity: neurodiversity, class diversity, etc. We have lots of different people, some are classic accountants, some quite quiet and seem nervy. Not all of them are everyone else’s cup of tea but they all bring something important to the table and our best clients are able to notice that.”


The panel session ‘How to become a media leader: 5 things aspiring leaders need to know’ was chaired by Greg Grimmer, CEO, Mediatel Group. The speakers were Natalie Cummins, CEO, Zenith; Ed Couchman, Managing Director, EMEA, Snap; Shula Sinclair, CSO EMEA & WW, mSix&Partners; Andy Hart, Founder, MailOnline, ex VP Microsoft

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