Leadership is the problem and the solution: Chris Hirst

At the Pitch CMO Summit - Mumbai 2020, Chris Hirst, Global CEO, Havas Creative, spoke on leadership, organisational culture, cynicism and aligning culture to the purpose of a better bottom line

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Mar 3, 2020 5:50 PM
Pitch CMO Mumbai 2020 Chris Hirst

As advertising and marketing needs expand by the year, an abundance of leadership roles, from SEO specialists to social media moguls, emerge. Anyone can be named as a manager, but what makes a great leader? In a dynamic industry like this, the need for a good leader is imperative. Weighing in on the same at the Pitch CMO Summit - Mumbai2020, Chris Hirst, Global CEO, Havas Creative, shared these insights as he spoke on the topic, 'Ensuring Business Success In A Complex Market – How Leadership Can Redefine The Way We Operate'.

A change agent, Hirst is widely recognized as an innovative and inspirational leader with a proven track record of leading transformation. While studying at Harvard Business School, Hirst developed his now-proven approach to leadership. He believes in the principles of an open culture – where people are given permission to take risks and make mistakes.

“For me, leadership is the problem and the solution,” he remarked. Hirst’s view is that the only way to be agile is to decentralise decision-making. Furthermore, culture is another piece of the leadership puzzle that Hirst unravelled throughout his keynote.

He added that leaders need to create the right culture in order for their teams to outperform. “Culture in an organisation is the behaviour of management/leaders. Culture sets like concrete, you have to take hard physical action to change it,” he asserted. He highlighted the importance for leaders to discuss with their team, their current culture and what kind of culture they want to have.

Apart from organisational culture, Hirst spoke of cynicism and gave some tips to align culture to purpose for a better bottom line. “There has certainly been some cynicism, frankly, around the idea of culture. In some cases, it is possibly considered by leaders to be an afterthought,” he said. “Cynicism is that gap between what you say and what you do. There is a very big gap between what businesses claim are their cultural values, for example, and what the people in the organisation or customers may think. If you do create an environment that allows your team to grow, that gives you a huge competitive advantage in a business context. And this flows to marketing and purpose," he stated.

“If this gap exists between what one organisation may claim is their purpose and the reality within their organisation, then this is a problem with authenticity. It used to be the case you could have a brand that had a certain set of values, and that brand was owned by a company that had a completely different set of values. Brands were considered to be things created and held at arm's length from the company. That is not possible anymore,” Hirst continued. He established a big opportunity for organisations to grow their brands with this, noting consumers are demanding greater authenticity within brands and demanding a sense of purpose. “I think everything is so open and publicly available to scrutiny, it is very difficult to not align brand and culture and be authentic now,” he opened up.

Hirst also advised the need for organisations to be nimble and agile Hirst pronounced the golden rules of leadership. Firstly he remarked,”We need better leaders everywhere. It's difficult but not complicated.” Moreover, he suggested that leaders be honest and ambitious and contended and that to decide is to act, stressing on the importance of clarity in a leader’s persona coupled with ambition. “An effective culture is a superpower,” he said.

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