Are You a Brave Leader? 6 things we learned to help us move the industry forward

We walked into an amazingly bright, sunlit room, carrying a seemingly humongous amount of mini-succulents and tropical plants.

This is NOT something a C-suite executive usually does at work, especially not when being introduced to the top CMOs in America at an exclusive leadership event. But here we were, our North American marketing lead, and I, walking through a room of frantic marketers at 7 AM on a Thursday in October, leaving a trail of snake plant leaves behind us.

The event was The Marketing Society’s Bravest Conference in NYC (which took place last week). The plants were the gift we had decided to bring for all attendees. We’re tired of the usual plastic knick-knacks and thought that this inspiring group of senior marketing executives, assembled to discuss bravery in their careers, deserved something, well, brave.

Speaking of bravery, one could say that the organizers had practiced what they were preaching, with a rather surprising speaker line-up for a marketing conference: a Paralympic judo champion? The Wall Street Journal’s former Baghdad bureau chief? Not quite your usual “Here is how we made sense of [insert latest marketing trend] and won awards” talk.

The bet on bravery, however, paid off, and we walked away from the event with valuable insight, convinced once again that inspiration for courageous decision-making can come from a wide variety of people sharing their diversity of experience.

Here are six things we’re already implementing in order to become braver leaders:

“Jump in, you won’t sink.”(Stacey Feder, CMO, Hudson Yards)

It is easy to stay within your comfort zone. This could mean staying in a job that you are good at, staying in a role that you’re comfortable doing, or with an employer you’ve been faithful to for years. There are times in your life, however, when you just need to jump in, do something new, and have the confidence that you’ll thrive in whatever you commit to doing. This is the only way to learn and to grow. As Stacey said: “You won’t sink.”

The importance of a support system (Farnaz Fassihi, former Baghdad Bureau Chief, The Wall Street Journal)

Farnaz Fassihi found that one of the crucial keys to her success (and, frankly, her survival) while in the Middle East was her support system – a system relying heavily on her competitive news outlets who looked out for each other. Part of being successful is about surrounding yourself with people that you admire and trust, no matter where they work. Having your own support system is vital, and it should extend far beyond where you work.

“Saying nothing isn’t necessarily better than saying the wrong thing.” (Jessie Lam, Partner & COO, Parameter Ventures)

While talking about how we can help individuals dealing with mental health issues, Jessie Lam encouraged people to speak up, show support, and be present, even if we’re afraid to do so. It’s something that applies to both helping loved ones and being a brave leader. Be present, take action, speak up, even when you’re afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing.

Millennials are changing the world. (Jessie Lam, Partner & COO, Parameter Ventures)

Jessie Lam also reminded us of one amazing characteristic of millennials, a generation we hear a lot about, but one which doesn’t always get the credit it deserves. Millennials have a tremendous ability to change the world we live in. 

“Millennials think about the possibilities and how to change things. They don’t see the obstacles, and they’re confident that they can succeed.” 

Millennials are tackling society’s inefficiencies, and they’re changing the world. Isn’t this a beautiful (and deserving) way to see that generation? We’ll definitely keep that one in mind next time we’re confronted with inter-generational culture shock.

“Let people fail.” (Anthony Ferraro, Paralympian)

Anthony Ferraro credits his mom for his unflappable attitude. Her “Raise your kids to fly the coop” refrain is what made him who he is, and it should be a mantra for all leaders looking to mentor their teams to greatness. Raise your team to do your job, let them fail, don’t micro-manage, but provide them with the guidance and support they need. They’ll learn and will help you reach even your boldest goals. Don’t hold them back from finding their success.

“Doing well and doing good can be done at the same time.” Ronan Dunne, EVP and Group CEO of Verizon Consumer Group

Ronan Dunne mentioned how he used to see his career goal as do well now so that he could do good later. The younger generation sees things differently, they want – and have the possibility to do – both at the same time. “Doing well and doing good are now two sides of the same coin”. This is something to keep in mind next time you set your annual goals.

Courageous leadership is about trusting your team. It’s about installing confidence and tending the potential of the people you mentor. It’s about following your heart, being human, and sticking to your values. 

For those looking to grow into a leadership role, challenge yourself, but remember to use your values as your North Star. 

And as the attendees’ excited reaction to our (much larger than we expected) plants showed us: don’t let logistics get in the way of bravery. 

Big thanks to The Marketing Society for hosting such an incredible event, and letting us be a part of it.

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