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Leaders Letter 170 – Leadership Lessons With Jo Bird

Dear leaders, how has the start of September gone? Are you ramping up for Q4 or are you in the middle of reviewing what has happened this year? 

This week I am continuing the 5 questions theme by interviewing Jo Bird. 

So who is Jo?

  • Jo is the creative lead at Lounge (the underwear brand) 
  • Powerful creative, being responsible for a number of powerful campaigns 
  • Conference speaker (has spoken at TEDx watch below)
  • Authentic Social Media Leader – Jo is one of my go-to examples of how leaders can show up authentically on social media, particularly on LinkedIn. 

» Please do connect with Jo on her website or on LinkedIn


The Q&A 

Q1. You share some incredible pieces of advice and insights with your connections and followers on LinkedIn, What’s the most valuable piece of advice you would give anyone progressing on their leadership journey? 

Ask yourself: ‘why do I want to be a leader?

A lot of people are chasing a job title so that they feel better about themselves. 
Or to gain respect. 
Or to challenge themselves in their own career. 
But the ‘me, me, me’ approach is a big fail at the first hurdle. It can also be incredibly disruptive to your team in the long-term. Trust me… I’ve had those bosses!

Being a great leader is about serving other people. It’s about standing in the shadows and applauding your team while they’re in the spotlight. It’s about empowering others to be their best selves. It’s about inspiring the team to reach a shared goal, together.

So, my advice would be to ask yourself why you want to do it. 

And then go from there.


Q2. The creative industry is likely going to experience big shifts with AI, what are the three pieces of advice you give fellow leaders on how to navigate the upcoming changes? 

  1. Be curious. You need to ask questions, do research and speak to industry professionals in order to make discoveries, learn and then subsequently inspire your team to also explore new technology, too.
  2. Be open-minded. Technology might not be your forte, or newness might feel uncomfortable, but great leaders do not stand still. 
  3. Be honest. It’s ok if you don’t have all the answers. AI will continue to develop at a rapid rate, which can feel overwhelming. If you are uncertain in any way, your team will appreciate your honesty.

Q3. You’ve given big conference talks, including a TEDX talk. Do you have three tips for other leaders who want to deliver brilliant presentations to their peers or at larger conferences? 

  1. Record yourself. Honestly. Self-awareness is the BEST tactic for developing as a speaker. Once you get over the ‘cringe’, you’ll start to notice your bad habits. ‘Ums’ and ‘ars’, awkward body language, lack of charisma. Only then can you start to practice.
  2. Practice! It’s true that preparation prevents p*ss poor performance! Do your research to make sure your presentation is air tight. And then rehearse in front of a mirror as many times as you can. When you feel like you can deliver the talk without looking at your notes, you’ll be so much more confident on stage.
  3. Treat it like a conversation. People think that being a presenter means being a robot or foghorn. It’s the opposite. The best, most captivating presenters are the ones who have built the courage to be themselves on stage. Like they’re speaking to a friend. To include their quirks, charisma and invite the audience in to their conversation.

Watch Jo’s Tedx video here


Q4. You’ve been a creative lead at both Lounge and Gymshark, both influential and culture-based brands, how do you inspire your teams when every campaign is expected to make a direct impact on the business? 

I have a few techniques that are working really well at the moment:

  1. Empowerment: I believe that creatives need to feel trusted, inspired and enabled to do their best work. For them, it can feel exhausting to constantly share their true, emotive, creative selves at work when pitching ideas. Especially if not all ideas are received well. So, they really need a leader who creates a safe space and continually champions them. Someone who ‘has their back.’
  2. Lead by example: I like to get my hands dirty, do great work and make it known to my team. If they are inspired by me – both inside and outside of the business – then they are more likely to respect my instructions as a leader.
  3. Communication: I am a high communicator. I am as transparent as I can be with my team. If there are business updates, if they have concerns, if they need more direction. I will speak to them as much as I can to make sure they feel supported and included. If they understand the bigger business goals, they are more likely to perform well.
  4. Humility: Working for rocketship brands means that the leaders can’t possibly know everything. The brands are growing at such a rapid rate, the leaders are learning and figuring things out all the time. So, I like to show a lot of humility. To leave ego at the door and encourage a ‘let’s learn this together’ attitude.

Q5. What’s the best piece of career advice you would give to C-suite leaders who don’t quite understand the power of creative (teams) or it’s just not landing right with them currently? 

I would quote Ed Catmull, the co-founder of Pixar. In his book Creativity Inc he said: 

“You’ll never stumble upon the unexpected if you stick only to the familiar.”

Creatives are the most curious kind of employee. We’re the ones who like to turn left when everyone else turns right. We’re the ones who thrive in problems and strive to break patterns. 

I don’t think creatives should take over the boardroom (we’d spend all the money on games machines and slides in the office), but I 100% think creatives should be in the decision-making room.

We see the world differently. And that is what every business needs in order to stay relevant, stay inspiring and stay profitable.

(And if that didn’t work, I’d probably just hit them with a research study like: 70% of companies that engage with creativity had above-average total returns to shareholders – McKinsey & Company.)


I think you’ll agree Jo offered some incredible tips and you can apply them this week. 

This week’s focus action is to ensure you embrace your creativity and ensure you enable your team to integrate creativity into their work. 

Have a great week if you haven’t subscribed you will miss out on with the big question you need to answer: 
Which Do You Need, A Refresh, A Reset, A Reboot Or A Restart? 

Thanks,

Danny Denhard

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