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Bossing It: Celia Wallace on Sweating the Small Stuff and Success in Leadership


Today the Brave partner Celia Wallace talks about how to eliminating overthinking and how hindsight can be a gift

Bossing It: Celia Wallace on Sweating the Small Stuff and Success in Leadership

Celia Wallace, partner with Jaimes Leggett at Today The Brave has had a generous career in the industry. Previously business director at Saatchi and Saatchi, and group business director at M&C Saatchi Australia. Celia has worked with top clients such as Cadbury, St.George, and the National Art School.

Her current role as partner at Today The Brave, she prides herself on the ability to create an environment that is curated to be creative and to allow for risks to be taken.

To learn more about her leadership skills, Celia spoke to LBB about loving the creative industry that you work in. 

LBB> What sort of household did you grow up in and what was your first experience of leadership?

Celia> I was raised in Central London by my Australian parents, who provided us with a happy, carefree and quintessentially British upbringing. Both were extremely hardworking, so from an early age they taught us the importance of hard work and the notion that what you put into life, you get out.

My first experience of leadership came later in life when doing my MBA, where you end up leading in more ways than you realise.

LBB> What made you decide to pursue a career in advertising, what was it that ignited your creative spark?

Celia> My love of the creative industry began during a six-week scholarship at Saatchi & Saatchi, London. 
It was so different from any career I thought I would do following the completion of a Bachelor of Science degree in Geography. 

It was during my summer holiday in the Charlotte Street office that I undertook my dissertation on ‘the notion of masculinity in Guinness advertising across equatorial Africa’, that I realised I was sold. It’s safe to say it was much better than measuring the soil pH on a slope in rural England or going hiking on a glacial slope (when I realised I’d only packed my trainers).
LBB> There exists an eternal debate about whether great leaders are born or made, what’s your take on this?
Celia> I believe it’s a mixture of both: great leaders are born but they can also be made. The potential for leadership exists within all of us. Sometimes we can be called upon to lead when we least expect it. Others lead naturally and confidently; they have an innate sense of how to lead. Some of the best leaders are well-rounded in many areas, most of which is learned over time. Leadership is about vision and sometimes it's a vision only you can see. Your art as a leader is to persuade people to believe in your vision and to help you achieve it.

LBB> Was there a pivotal moment that helped you figure out what kind of leader you wanted to be – or what kind of leader you didn’t want to be?
Celia> For me, this has evolved and been shaped over time, through the different careers I’ve had across industries - from advertising to marketing, strategic consulting and back into the creative field, I’ve come full circle. And in doing so, have gleaned so many different aspects of how truly brilliant leadership shows up. And a lot of it comes down to tremendous resilience.

LBB> What experience or moment gave you your biggest lesson in leadership?
Celia> It would have to be founding Today the Brave alongside my business partner, Jaimes Leggett, in 2022. Anyone will tell you that starting a business comes with immense challenges, but it’s not until you start do you realise what’s involved.
These tips have stood me in good stead for both professional and personal growth.

  • I’m a great believer in lifelong learning
We should never rest on our laurels, so constantly striving to learn more, whether that be upskilling, cross disciplines or learning about new technologies in our industry, is key.

  • Success in leadership is mainly consistency, combined with a tremendous amount of resilience and patience 
In any company, the day will come when everything goes wrong — because that day always comes — and quitting will feel like the right thing to do. People who aren’t as involved in your business as you are will not be as close to it or as dedicated as you are. Some might expect you to fail. You will need an enormous amount of resilience to overcome that.

  • Sweat the small stuff 
The most successful people I know all sweat the small stuff. They care deeply about the one-percenters, the attention to detail which is so endearing and ultimately makes you try harder.

LBB> Did you know you always wanted to take on a leadership role? If so how did you work towards it and if not, when did you start realising that you had it in you?
Celia> I’ve always really loved what I do and am constantly inspired by the people around me. For me, it hasn’t been a goal to become a leader per se, more a goal to continually learn wherever I go.

LBB> When it comes to 'leadership' as a skill, how much do you think is a natural part of personality, how much can be taught and learned?
Celia> Anyone can lead. It’s not necessarily in the dominant or more obvious roles. Great leaders let their people flourish. They know when to step out and, most importantly, recognise when their egos are taking control. Give your people room to grow, and success will follow.

LBB> What are the aspects of leadership that you find most personally challenging? And how do you work through them?
Celia> Multitasking. Getting distracted, keeping lots of plates spinning and wanting to do everything all at once. It is also important to learn how to manage the day to day and balancing that with long term ambitions.
When I think of leadership, I think of two things: 

  • Hiring the world’s best people, (the success of what you do will be defined by getting the best people in the world to come to do what they do best) and;
  • Creating a culture which gets the best out of people. That’s literally my job as a leader. Creating a culture that inspires the team, gives them a high degree of autonomy, keeps them with a certain degree of challenge, that gives them a community where they feel supported.
LBB> Have you ever felt like you've failed whilst in charge? How did you address the issue and what did you learn from it?
Celia> Yes, many times. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. And we fail every day in small ways. Even if that means falling short of our own high expectations of ourselves and others.

Eliminating overthinking is helpful.

LBB> In terms of leadership and openness, what’s your approach there? Do you think it’s important to be as transparent as possible in the service of being authentic? Or is there a value in being careful and considered?
Celia> It’s often said that it’s not what you do, but how you do it that matters. Being true to your word. Coming through time after time. Demonstrating honesty and integrity. Supporting others and being kind. 
LBB> As you developed your leadership skills did you have a mentor, if so who were/are they and what have you learned? And on the flip side, do you mentor any aspiring leaders and how do you approach that relationship?
Celia> I’ve been fortunate in my life to have many mentors, mostly without me even realising. And I’m working side by side with one of the best, Jaimes Leggett. He has struck the right balance of being there, guiding and supporting as I figure things out. From a mentor perspective, I’m keen to give back and I do this through mentoring students at the University of Sydney on the MBA programme, in their final module, the Capstone.
And I also mentor budding entrepreneurs through the Incubate programme - the award-winning start-up programme at the University of Sydney. In both instances I try to listen more and give fresh perspectives.
LBB> How important is your company culture to the success of your business? And how have you managed to keep it alive with increases in remote and hybrid working patterns?
Celia> Company culture is paramount to any business. It’s the heartbeat of how you operate and sets the tone for where you want to go.

As a relatively new business, a lot of this lies ahead of us. All of these challenges we face with enthusiasm. We are here to create an agency which supports its people and goes above and beyond for our clients.

LBB> What are the most useful resources you’ve found to help you along your leadership journey?

Celia> For me, networking is probably the biggest resource that has helped me every step of the way. Undertaking an MBA at the University of Sydney opens you up to a vast network of really interesting people. I’ve worked hard to maintain relationships with new and current postgraduates. Whether it’s bouncing ideas off each other for business, connecting people or anything in between, you have a rich network of resources.

Podcasts are also a great source for inspiration. Steven Bartlett’s Diary of a CEO is a favourite.

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Today The Brave, Tue, 23 May 2023 03:25:42 GMT