CNBC’s The Leaders often offers fascinating insight into leadership. It can frustratingly be because the CEO interviewed exhibits a bewildering lack of any traits traditionally associated with being a leader.
Refreshingly the bouncily talkative CEO of the world’s largest ‘creative’ conglomerate, Sir Martin Sorrell, merrily enthused about all sorts of gems, many of which also enjoyed many a sales slant.
As background, he co-founded WPP when almost 40 (watch more WPP/Sorrell videos here). Both founders began in a basement office for the two of them. Quarter of a century on, 135,000 people bring in £15bn for the organisation worldwide. Such stellar growth has come primarily from acquisitions. Sir Martin himself has never constructed or run an ad campaign. This apparently grates many an industry insider, putting him in the ‘bean counter box’ which he takes in the exact opposite way to the insult as intended. Here’s a snatch of six nuggets with advice relevant to those in selling:
Getting Things Done
He had the fortune to work as a youngster for Mark McCormack at the IMG (where he felt his main job was to carry racing world champ Jackie Stewart’s bags). He though McCormack’s ability to get things done was exceptional. It seems he used to keep a wad of yellow four-by-two cards. At the start of each day, he’d write 15 to 20 things on them that he needed to do. And they were all done by the day’s end.
The Law of Co-operation
‘The nearer the coal-face you go the more co-operation you get’. This was in the context of trying to ‘sell’ an acquisition idea, and he reckoned this was because they are the people that are the ones that have to differentiate what they do every day in front of clients.
To keep driving yourself forward, he thought being paranoid was a healthy trait. Insecurity was considered a powerful motivator.
Much of his growth has come from incredible ‘reverse takeovers’ (in just one example, a target dwarfed his own firm by a factor of 13). He believes there is no such thing as a hostile takeover (somewhat of a theme in his corporate history for some observers). It is merely just hostile to the CEO. For everyone else it’s a winner, and such context helps fuel eventual success.
‘Organisations want to work with businesses that can mobilise its talent‘.
‘Strategy is a reflection of where our clients are going‘.