Thought Piece: What you learn through your career becomes a core part of who you will be as a leader

Our Chief Strategy Officer, Louise Martell, shares her thoughts on leadership and the things she has learnt throughout her career and how they shape you via Mediatel.


Scrolling through LinkedIn last week I saw that Mediatel News had not only rebranded its news product to The Media Leader, but had hosted its Year Ahead event; very cool to see industry conferences coming back to real life once again.

At the event, my old colleague and friend from MediaCom days, Kate Rowlinson, now MediaCom UK CEO had been on the stage and I was also chuffed to bits for Rachel Forde of UM UK&I scooping CEO of the year honours in the Leader Awards.

Two brilliantly inspiring women in the spotlight is a great thing to see and a fine reminder of how past colleagues have helped to form my approach to being a leader.

Three months into my current role as CSO at Yonder Media, I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership, and the practices I’ve inherited over the last 20 odd years working with some of the best at MediaCom, Vizeum and MAL/OMD, as well as alongside some hugely inspirational clients at Apple.

Here’s the things that have stuck with me.

Create the time and space to listen

Karen Blackett was CEO of MediaCom during my time there and despite being uber busy, she always kept her office door open and welcomed informal quick chats to give guidance on an approach or offer a fresh perspective. She is a brilliant listener.

Our core philosophy at Yonder Media and the Beyond Collective is one that is rooted in putting audiences first and meeting them where they are.

For me, it’s as important, if not more so, that we take that approach with our own people.

Learning from Karen years ago, I also try my best to make space to listen and leave the metaphorical door open for a chat.

It’s important to me that I am accessible to everyone who needs a word and I hope it’s as beneficial to others as I found it while at MediaCom.

Things have changed so much since I first started in the industry and that’s bloody great to be honest.

I love that we’re championing diversity and inclusion at every level. What that means to me as a leader is that now, more than ever, we need to create the conditions for different people to thrive, to be heard and to add the value that we know diverse thinking teams bring.

This means taking the time to listen to the team, learn from them and find out what’s really going on. We should all be doing this at every level of business.

Nurture a culture of creativity

I’ve been fortunate enough to have enjoyed awesome creativity training over the years – more than enough to learn how vital it is to nurture and offer training to others.

Part of my learning has been the good luck to work with creative geniuses on Apple, and now Above + Beyond, people whose ideas and thinking can’t help but inspire others and in agencies that celebrate ideas and strive for innovative ways to solve problems.

In a world where everything and everyone can be media, I want to make sure Yonder has a culture of creativity that supports people to push boundaries and find their ways to express innovation.

We do this by making sure everyone knows they have permission and that they can access training with the tools they need to participate and strive for better ideas.

In this sector, the work is always about problem solving and those solutions can and should come from anyone.

It helps to have the incredible Dom Goldman to riff with, but equally, one of the joys of working here is how closely you get to create with all levels of experience. I get a real sense of pride and inspiration when I can hear input from everyone.


Something all the leaders I admire have in common is their generosity and it’s a practice that I’ve found to be the most rewarding.

This doesn’t mean bringing tasty snacks to work – though that’s always welcome.

The generosity that sticks with me most was when working with Jem Lloyd-Williams. He is a master of ensuring everyone receives timely, useful feedback and feels valued for their efforts.

It’s important to note that people around you work hard, and they are always looking to grow and learn through their own career track.

It’s really rewarding to be generous with feedback, advice and coaching – to highlight great work and always give credit. The wins are never about you, they’re about the team.

I get a real kick out of boosting people’s profile and supporting them in taking opportunities to step outside of their comfort zone.

I feel bigger when I see people grow and achieve amazing things – so it’s actually a purely selfish generosity.

Be what you want to see

To change or support a company culture, you need to lead by example and work to create that in yourself as much as encourage those around you.

No one’s perfect, but if you want a positive “let’s do it” vibe, then you have to bring it to the table.

Yonder is an exciting media agency to work at, with a bunch of people you look forward to hanging out with and doing business with because we foster that energy.

I remember seeing this in action with Kate Rowlinson and being in awe of the energy and can-do attitude that she brought to the pitches we worked on together at MediaCom.

Being a leader doesn’t mean observing from a lofty height, nor does it mean helicoptering your teams, but it does mean sharing and showing when you are excited about the work being done and the people doing that amazing work.

Sharing that energy helps to get others just as fired up about what they’re doing.

That’s a small measure of great things I have learned from the people I have worked with and I continue to learn every day.

Sometimes it’s a new starter with a fresh perspective straight out of college, other times it’s recalling the tone and methods of people I worked with in the past.

What I do know, and probably the thing I would want others take from me, is that you should remember the good things you see and how they made you feel at work, then let those inform your own leadership style as you progress in your career.


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