Joyce King Thomas: 5 things I've learned about leadership

To be a great leader, you need to be brave, supportive and show people you care, writes the chairman, chief creative officer of McCannXBC.

Campaign US' Annual Morale Survey has once again revealed that leadership is the No. 1 most-cited cause of low employee morale. All this week, as part of our first-ever Leadership Report, we're exploring the issue through the eyes of those who live it every day.

There are 260,086 books on leadership on Amazon, 5,000 of them on the subject of women and leadership. There's even a new book by two Navy Seals about what they learned leading an elite team into Ramadi that I just downloaded onto my Kindle. The subject of what makes a great leader is something of a national obsessionand at this moment, a national disagreement.

Maybe that's because there's more than one effective way to lead. In that spirit, and keeping in mind that I've never been a Navy Seal, I'm happy to share what I've learned.

Stand by your people. The first female CCO at McCann, Nina DiSesa, taught me a leader stands by her people. Even when we had a terrible meeting or god forbid lost an account, she never said an unkind word. Once you were "her people" you were her people.

After an account loss that was somewhat inevitable, she actually said, "You're more important than that account was anyway."

She was smart enough to know that business is fickle, and that people matter more. Piling on when they're down doesn't help them get back up and make something magical happen. Lousy leaders bail on people. Good leaders stick with their people and help them be better.

And, by the way, we won another, bigger, account within a couple of months.

Read: Nancy Hill on 5 things I've learned about leadership

Be brave. Working with Cindy Gallop on the Ad Council review committee and watching her on social media has been another amazing lesson in leadership. Whenever I find myself wavering on something important, I go straight to WWCGD. And, that can generally be summed up in two words: Be brave. Be ruthlessly clear about your POV and your vision for the end goal. Even if it's not popular or easy.

Laugh about it. You can't lead without laughing. My partner at XBC and now general manager of the New York office, Devika Bulchandani, is relentless about everything, including fun. She once fabricated a diet—the lard diet—during a strategic presentation in a Weight Watchers pitch just to get our team laughing. Fun leads to better work. And people would rather work with people they have fun with.

Be able to take a punch. My next lesson came from that well-known combo: My mom and Mohammad Ali. Mom taught me leaders have to be able to take a punch and get back up. Being the only Moroccan Jew in a Bible Belt town didn't stop her. Sexist bosses didn't stop her. Cancer didn't stop her. As Mohammad Ali says, "Inside of a ring or out, ain't nothing wrong with going down. It's staying down that's wrong."

Read: Marc Strachan on 5 things I've learned about leadership

Focus on the good. My last lesson is something I work on every day because I believe in it big time. A good leader finds something to love about everyone she works with. Everyone has some essential lovableness. So I try hard to give that a hug. (Not in a creepy, presidential candidate kind of way though.) People who know you care about them are definitely more eager to follow you. And there's no such thing as a leader without followers.

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