Culture is more important than talent, says Havas CEO

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The culture at a company is more important than the talent employed, according to Chris Hirst, European and UK group CEO at Havas.

The exec held a session at Creativepool's Connect London festival and shared his thoughts on what makes a great leader and why so many fail to manage and inspire teams.

“Anyone who has people that depend on them can consider themselves a leader,” he said, explaining that could be anywhere from a football team, hospital or at a company. “The problem is, there aren’t enough good leaders, certainly not enough great leaders and not enough from different backgrounds.”

But what were his reasons for the lack of top chiefs in the creative industries? An indecisive nature was one issue and a fear of making the wrong call. “To make decisions is to act,” said Hirst.

He outlined the importance of getting stuff done and that doing something is better than doing nothing. “You won’t be able to tell if a decision you made was right or wrong more often than not so don’t be indecisive. Leadership isn’t a straight-line journey, it’s a zig zag bumpy ride; you need to create impact.”


"Culture is the environment the leader creates to allow their people to outperform others."


Another problem with striving to be a great leader is that there is an entire industry dedicated to promoting it as something complicated with courses, books and conferences being set up to improve skills.

“Why does it matter? It matters because it creates a perception of an elite, an untouchable knowledge,” he added. “Firstly, the bullshit gets in the way of leaders fulfilling their potential because the subject is all smeared. But secondly, and potentially a bigger issue, is that it excludes people from becoming leaders in the first place.”

He finished by backing up his claim that culture is key and more important than the talent at a company, labelling it as a super power. “The most important thing out of talent and culture is culture. Culture is the environment the leader creates to allow their people to outperform others,” Hirst said.

“It isn’t Pilates at lunchtime and two types of soya milk in the café. Culture is a hard, physical competitive advantage. It’s the thing the leader does to make his or her team outperform the competition.”

See more sessions like this from Connect: London 2018 here.



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