Written by Lori Hiltz, CEO of Havas Media North America. This blog first appeared on Huffington Post, as part of a series produced by Havas Media (@HavasMediaUSA), in conjunction with The Ad Club’s Women’s Leadership Forum.


Four years ago the owners of Havas approached me with the opportunity to become the CEO of Havas Media North America — a new entity that was the result of a restructuring of several disparate business units into one cohesive full-service media agency network. I did not have the privilege or experience of being a CEO and the role was not without obvious challenges that all leaders face.

However, there is no roadmap on how to be a CEO, no manual, no webex training and certainly no perfect background. Much of the job comes from your ability to rally people and listen to what they’re saying on a daily basis. After three plus years, I’ve learned and feel strongly any successful marketing agency CEO needs to be doing the following things.

1. Read, Read, Read
Seems somewhat self-explanatory but an imperative. A CEO should read… everything. While my days are busy, I make time to keep up whenever I’m in transit — my trusted WiFi card delivering every possible piece of business and industry content possible. I personally love reading the content on the Pope app & the Dalai LamI Quote app in order to have a better understanding of peacefulness and kindness. It’s critical a CEO have a pulse on news, analysis and developments shaping our work for clients. Whether it be industry reporting (the marketing/advertising business is blessed to have arguably the best trade press in any industry), examination from analysts or just the musings of your favorite futurist on Twitter — taking the time to read provides a CEO context for the challenges their company will face upon arrival each day.

2. Meet & Mingle
Yes, as the CEO I’m the lead salesperson and spokeswoman for my company. I’m fortunate to meet a lot of people. However, I often challenge my team to make sure I’m meeting change agents. Media is being disrupted by technology, new social platforms, changing consumer behaviors, cultural shifts and entertainment offerings. I want to meet the people who are doing the disrupting. As for mingling — to be clear I don’t mean working the room at an event. Specifically, it’s critical a CEO mingle with their own people. Our industry’s product is the power of people and the ideas they generate. I make it a point to sit in meetings, attend team gatherings and insert myself as often as I can. By blending the takeaways from my industry meetings with the insights I get from mingling with our team I am regularly surprised with the outcome and how it’s rarely what I previously thought.

3. Stay Close to Academia
During my tenure, I have found that some of the best thinking I get emanates not from the boardroom but rather the classroom. Members of academia whether it be professors, think tank leaders or even students provide unique and often theoretical insight that helps inspire me. Sometimes the suggestions lack the necessary underpinning of business in the ‘real-world’ but the counsel should not be overlooked. Take the time to include a trusted member of academia within your circle and meet with them regularly. You’ll be glad you did.

4. Cultivate Passion
Passion! In a business like ours that thrives on creativity nothing can deliver results more than a colleague with passion. As a CEO you need to cultivate it. Create the environment for it to live, grow and prosper. This starts with ensuring your team has the comfort and courage to chase failure and push the envelope of what was previously thought impossible. It also means giving them the latitude to chase their dreams both in and out of the office so they’re focused and rejuvenated for your clients.

5. Move Your Seat
Moving your seat in the literal sense… sure. No matter how busy — remaining visible and approachable is very important. But in a figurative sense — a CEO should be perpetually thinking about the challenges people in different seats are facing. Moving your seat and taking the time to learn what it is they need or want to achieve at a higher level only helps to strengthen your complete understanding of your business and that of your clients and makes for a stable and powerful organization.


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