Mistakes, questions and energy flows: how to win a media leader award twice

Mistakes, questions and energy flows: how to win a media leader award twice
The Future of Media 2023

“You can’t actually be a very good leader unless you look after yourself. To look after yourself, you need to understand yourself.”

This is the advice Duncan Chater, managing director Europe at Bloomberg Media, offered aspiring media leaders at The Future of Media last month.

Chater holds the distinction of twice winning an award for leadership, having been named “International Media Leader of the Year at The Media Leader Awards this year and in 2022.

So how did he do it?

Track your energy flow

In an on-stage interview with Adwanted Events’ MD Steve Scaffardi, Chater shared what advice he would give his children, rather than his younger self, as today’s world and environment are “very different” to those times and he doubted his younger self would listen to him.

“The thing that I do concentrate on with my kids is making sure that they’re questioning and understanding their emotions and understanding themselves so they can manage themselves effectively,” he explained.

This, Chater, said was “more and more important now” because of the growing complexity and pressure that everyone experiences, and was not something that was talked about a lot when he was growing up.

This particular insight was particularly relevant given the previous panel on how to tackle poor mental health in the media industry.

He added: “If you’re able to really understand what energises you and what drains you, then you can control some of those situations a little bit better, then you can be more effective.”

Chater sees leaders 20 years ago as “someone who had all the answers” and was across every issue the business faces. However, now he sees being a leader as someone who creates an environment for everyone to be at their best.

“It’s not really about one person, one person can deliver X but 100 people at their best can deliver so much more,” Chater explained. “How I think about it is: what’s the difference in performance with everyone at their best versus everyone at 50%. And then how much of my time do I need to get everyone there?”

Learning from other leaders

Chater said he has been “very fortunate” to have learned from great leaders throughout his career. These lessons include bringing energy into the office and his interactions with colleagues, or appreciating the difference between listening and “really hearing”, which can enhance a team’s sense of appreciation and motivation.

He also highlighted consistency and authenticity as really important qualities of a leader.

When asked if you can be the same leader in different companies he referred to how he had come to Bloomberg Media, a global financial media business, from a lifestyle, luxury and fashion magazine business at Hearst.

“You’ve got to be yourself because otherwise people see through that. You’ve got to be authentic, so there should be some consistency there to who you are as a person, but I suppose there’s got to be some degree of adapting also to the business,” he acknowledged.

Making mistakes

Chater also said there were “plenty of occasions where you get it wrong”, but stressed that making mistakes was the only way to grow.

Creating an environment where “everyone is petrified of getting stuff wrong” was not good, and he stressed a good leader has to “lead in that way”.

If you were not “getting it wrong” sometimes you are not pushing yourself hard enough, he suggested.

“I am a massive believer if you keep bringing yourself outside of your comfort zone, that’s where you learn most about yourself. That’s also not only where you grow, but the business grows. You’ve got to keep like pushing into new areas, and then you get stuff wrong.”

The Fishbowl: Duncan Chater, Bloomberg Media

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