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One year on: A leader’s eye for opportunity

Some people have an eye for beauty, but I believe all leaders need to have an eye for opportunity.

My first year at Zenith has been a tumultuous one beset with both boundless opportunities and a steep learning curve. For me, the takeaway was: a leader is one who keeps moving forward while steering others towards the door of opportunity, and that requires the ability to recognise and harness opportunities against the odds.

Having taken over the helm in a time of change, there were three areas of focus:

Clients:

Our key stakeholder and the bloodline of the business. A new leadership brings about uncertainties and questions such as, “What’s the person’s priority and direction?” Putting myself in the client’s shoes, I would be wondering, “Where does my business stand?”

To re-state our commitment to their businesses, I made sure to go out and meet key clients face-to-face. Having read Pat Goh’s article, I strongly agree that we have to spend a lot of time listening and demonstrating so – trust starts from there. Trust starts from listening.

Leadership in the office:

There is always opportunity for better collaboration among leaders in the work space. While we have moved towards a single P&L by then, leadership in the office was still very much segregated. These strong individuals could be a lot stronger, together.

Every leader obviously has a different personality – which is good because that means every one of us bring different things to the table. At the same time – that also means that we have different perspectives and opinions, which can go either way.

As a collaborator, I take pride in bringing people together as they work and build on each other’s similarities while celebrating their differences.

Talent:

Our people are extremely important. I’m a strong believer that people are talent and our assets. Again, leadership changes often bring about uncertainties and speculation. The immediate need I saw was to drive positive sentiments within and about the agency. As much as possible, engaging people as individuals one-to-one from top to the junior ranks.

This is also being achieved through the execution of activities such as training workshops and staff meetings, which are injected with fun and opportunities to converse and build rapport. We have good people, but in times of uncertainty and change, they may tend to focus on their weaknesses and shortcomings. Through conversing and active listening, I endeavour to both build and communicate the confidence that they have in and from the management. We have since seen results such as new businesses, better plans developed, amongst others.

In short, the biggest challenge about taking over the helm is managing change.

As changes occur in leadership, clients and personnel movement, it is of utmost importance that we communicate the one vision we are all trying to move towards. Things may not always go to plan – and that is okay – but to progressively move forward, we need confidence: be it in leadership, myself (laughs), clients, fellow colleagues. That confidence stems from trust, which blooms from listening, and which is groomed by leadership.

It is important that leaders are not, and do not think like a lone wolf. Successful leadership, I believe and have since learnt, often comes from close working relationships and an efficient delegation of work. Personally – once I got over the mental barrier that all solutions have to come from me, I started to receive (and really appreciate) support and comfort.

The solutions got even better and that’s truly the power of group thinking and dynamics: we divide and conquer. In the next year, and many years to come, there would be various projects and unexpected challenges in this fast-paced agency landscape. Nonetheless, I stick to my guns and again stress the importance of keeping sight on and guiding everyone towards that one vision, that one common goal.

The writer is Helen Lee, managing director, Zenith Singapore.

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