Lindsay Pattison
Oct 31, 2016

Leadership, relationships must adapt for fourth industrial revolution

Global Maxus CEO Lindsay Pattison discusses creating the conditions for success amidst rapidly changing conditions.

Lindsay Pattison
Lindsay Pattison

We’re right at the precipice of what the World Economic Forum calls a Fourth Industrial Revolution, which will profoundly affect the way we all work, live and interact. To set the scene, in this world mobile supercomputing is ubiquitous, robots have superior intelligence, we can tweak our genetics, and cars can drive themselves. This is no longer the fantastical stuff of science fiction, but market-ready pieces of tech; we’re already assessing how brands can integrate them into their marketing plans.

And in terms of global connectivity, shifts suggest that the 3 billion unconnected people of the world may be online by 2020.

And for us?

For those of us responsible for creating meaningful communications for a growing audience, this means we’ll need to understand even more and have greater empathy around cultural nuances.

In media and marketing, change is a fact of life; adapt or die has become our mantra. Yet the breadth, pace and speed of change we’re experiencing now is unparalleled. And it’s not just happening in media, but across culture, technology, innovation, products, science…. And it’s getting faster and faster. But the area I’m personally most interested in is how our relationships and leadership in particular need to urgently evolve if we’re to lean in confidently to this exciting new world.

A complex marketing ecosystem

The type of work we’re being asked to do agency-side is evolving and diversifying. As we hurtle towards a programmatic world, we gain the ability to tweak and optimise campaigns precisely, in real time. But as well as precision targeting capability, data can also bring the unwanted side effect of analysis paralysis. So we need a new kind of talent—the data smarts that can interpret and make sense of reams of complex information.

And as media becomes more complex and fragmented, so do the businesses that operate in and around it. Agencies now have almost as many relationships with tech players as with media vendors. The previously distinct categories of media owner, agency and tech provider have completely blurred. And an ultra-competitive tech space calls us to brace ourselves for more competition, innovation and diversification.

While Facebook and Google have built an enviable duopoly, we also welcome more innovation and competition and look to AOL, Snapchat, Amazon in most mature markets, now diversifying and acquiring as they build their volume of users and range of services; and of course the likes of Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu in China.

We all need to develop more adaptive, agile business models and new ways of partnering and coming together; particularly a more collaborative and open marketer-agency dynamic. We hear the words trust and transparency and take them very seriously. In Australia, there have been issues over compliance. GroupM has worked hard at this; introducing a full-time compliance team and daily compliance testing practices: we’re confident now that we’re the most transparent media company in the country. And any agency-client relationship must be built on absolute trust and contractual understanding

Leading change

Which all leads to arguably the most important area in managing change—leadership. It’s an issue close to my heart as well, that’s my job! My style is to lead from the front to ensure we fulfil our agency mission to lead change.

Last year, Maxus partnered with the Financial Times to survey perspectives from the C-suite. We discovered ambivalent attitudes toward change; whilst 72 percent of execs embrace its potential, a worrying 18 percent feel confident in managing change.

Correspondingly, there’s mounting concern amongst a massive swell of Gen Y employees—(86 percent identified by the World Economic Forum) who have no faith in their leaders—creating a tangible crisis of leadership.

So we need to really question and rethink the core of what leadership is, ensure we have the people that we need around us on this journey, and that we nurture them in the right ways.

An ability to use influence rather than control has been really important for me, moving from a local role to a global position. I see my task as creating the conditions for success. Not assuming that the lofty title of global CEO awards me dispensation to bark orders. Gen Y seek an open and empathetic culture, this starts with the CEO being an approachable leader who listens, shares and gives feedback—so that is just what I do. And while we’re at it, creating a more representative, diverse workforce is a critical one requiring action, not words. I am passionate about challenging the dismal status quo of inequality, and very proud that we have two (brilliant) female MDs in Katy Websdell and Karly Fragiacomo, and that our management team across Maxus Australia is 50/50 male/female. There is of course, more to do in others areas of inclusivity, but we will get there.

At this moment of immense change the adage ‘you’re only a leader if someone wants to follow you’ is more relevant than ever. So I encourage all leaders—including myself!—to ask the tough question posed by a Harvard Business Review study: “Why should anyone be led by you?” My own paradoxical answer is that a tech revolution calls for a far more human, intuitive approach, and a balance of EQ and IQ, which is something I’ve worked to cultivate over my career. What’s yours?

Lindsay Pattison is worldwide CEO of Maxus. This piece is based on a speech she presented at AANA RESET in Sydney last week. 

Related Articles

Just Published

15 hours ago

An 'Inactivewear' line made for all your binge-watch...

A collaboration between streaming provider Binge and fashion retailer The Iconic, instigated by Thinkerbell, yields a 19-item line of luxury loungewear.

15 hours ago

How Huawei is using local projects to try to ...

Localisation is Huawei's branding strategy for the year. Its 'Connect the North' project in Canada is one example of this.

15 hours ago

Milo positions itself as a sports drink in Vietnam

The beverage brand seemingly takes a page from Nike in a campaign from Ogilvy Vietnam and Sweetshop director Noah Conopask.

15 hours ago

Singapore’s top influencer investigated for racist ...

Wendy Cheng, aka Xiaxue, stands by her stance in a defensive blogpost, and one brand has already pulled a partnership with her.