Campaign special: What type of leader are you?

Truly evolved leadership is critical to successfully navigate through these challenging times says The Lighthouse Company’s chief executive officer, Kathleen Saxton.

What type of leader are you? Campaign magazine

In the Lighthouse’s Annual Shipping Forecast, published in November 2018, our New World Talent report discussed the emerging trio of Exotic, Extinct and Evolved Leaders – causing quite an uncomfortable stir at The Royal Institute on the night it was released.

Finding Evolved leaders has become a term increasingly present in the numerous C-suite briefings we have undertaken at The Lighthouse in 2018.

Global hiring clients are increasingly seeking individuals who not only cultivate and retain relationships but now offer both higher strategic and deeper executional business advice, via the complete communications spectrum and the entire customer journey. It is becoming critically apparent these are the “Elite Forces” any management team now require.

With the likes of IPG acquiring Acxiom, Dentsu embedding Merkle, ITV offering creative and airtime solutions and Ogilvy and The&Partnership delivering a truly full service offering to clients, the urgent need for hybrid leaders who can hold not just CMO but CEO-level conversations is rising fast.

While the report highlighted 80% of respondents acknowledge there is a demand for truly Evolved leaders to be found (versus the global client ambassadors, with just their specialist creative, media or CRM knowledge), our lived experience as leading head-hunters would gauge only 15% of leadership talent would be currently classed in this way.

Retrain, reinvent, refocus
The Evolved are engaged and erudite operators, whose conversations elegantly cover both brand strategy and buying capability, to the potential societal impact of data breaches, to the metamorphosis of retail – even bringing insight to the broader conversations around the future of human consumption and mobility.

They’ve evolved from being a classic suit, marketing director, data lead, brand planner, investment director or commercial chief, to being a fully-rounded operator at leadership level beyond media or advertising.

They welcome the possibilities which come with advances in technology and converse about the “business of the business” not just the sales and marketing or specialisms of their business. They can talk to any client with empathy and insight about the running of their business – something many agency and media owner leaders struggle with, if they have never themselves been exposed to manufacturing, cash-flow or geographical economic impacts.

The Evolved are willing to be vulnerable in venturing into the unknown, being able to sit in the discomfort of accepting that while they hold world class specialist knowledge, they start as novices in other sectors. They have an appetite for learning, retraining and acquiring new skills. This takes both healthy self-esteem, combined with great humility. They embrace this change because the broader world view is stimulating, enriching and simply more fun.

This year’s World Economic Forum concluded that continuous learning lies at the heart of thriving in the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

With an estimate that 35% of the skills demanded for jobs across industries changing by 2020, it is clear enabling and empowering workers to transform and update their skills is a key challenge for businesses and markets across the globe.

The current view from the Lighthouse is of a finite number of Evolved leaders in our industry. There are simply not enough in quantum to purely rely on poaching them from competitors. The report goes on to reveal less than 30% of businesses in our sector are retraining under 10% of their workforce – yet we can see the importance of leaders accepting their duty of care to the people who want to be retrained.

Not only will this reap financial rewards, but will also develop and evolve company culture. The end result, a workforce fit for the future, rather than harbouring 25% facing inevitable extinction, which the report also highlighted.

We need to be honest with ourselves and take the time to work out how evolved individually we actually are. Are we simply going to comfortably drift in our designated lane towards the jagged rocks, in our familiar craft? Or instead are we going to seek to acquire the knowledge necessary to adroitly navigate across shipping lanes, bringing longevity and adventure to our voyage?

As 2019 beckons, these are critical questions for every member of our industry to be considering.