Wake The Town
Stuck in Motion
Contemplative Reptile
  • International Edition
  • USA Edition
  • UK Edition
  • Australian Edition
  • Canadian Edition
  • Irish Edition
  • German Edition
  • French Edition
  • Singapore Edition
  • Spanish edition
  • Polish edition
  • Indian Edition
  • Middle East edition
  • South African Edition

Bossing It: Digging Deep to Find Inner Resilience with Danielle Wiley


Sway Group founder and CEO on unexpected leadership, learning lessons from tough times and enjoying the problem solving process

Bossing It: Digging Deep to Find Inner Resilience with Danielle Wiley

Founded in 2011, Danielle has grown Sway into a full-service influencer marketing agency powered by The Sway, their highly engaged network comprised of more than 45,000 creators across a variety of platforms and demographics. 

Last year, Danielle was named to Chief Marketer's 'Market Like a Mother' list. She was previously included in the revered 'Top 50' list by Talking Influence and received Ragan’s 'Top Women in Communications Awards' in the Trailblazer category. 

A thought leader published through Forbes Agency Council and Fast Company’s executive board, Danielle writes for a variety of top-tier outlets about critical social media and influencer marketing issues. In 2022, she launched 'The Art of Sway' – a podcast that delves into the topic of influence with industry insiders and influential tastemakers.

Previously, Danielle led social strategy for Edelman’s Chicago-based digital group, designing social campaigns for household-name brands. 

LBB> What was your first experience of leadership?

Danielle> On my second day as a VP at a global PR agency in my early 30s, I found myself unexpectedly leading the digital department when my boss took medical leave. Despite being new to managing a team, I was able to embrace the challenge and rise to the occasion - although I had anticipated having more preparation before making the leap. (I didn’t get much time to acclimate: unfortunately, I had to terminate an employee on the same day!)

LBB> How did you figure out what kind of leader you wanted to be – or what kind of leader you didn’t want to be?

Danielle> In the early years of my career, I endured many examples of poor leadership, including witnessing inappropriate relationships and abusive behaviour. I faced sexual discrimination, plagiarism by bosses, and worked one job where I had no responsibilities for three months - despite my proactive requests for assignments. These experiences helped shape my understanding of the leader I did NOT want to become.

LBB> What experience or moment gave you your biggest lesson in leadership?

Danielle> My biggest lessons in leadership continue to come from the tough times. During periods when my company has faced financial difficulties, even to the point of struggling to meet payroll, I’ve had to really dig deep to find the inner resilience to lead with positivity and inspire my team. Challenging times necessitate increased vulnerability, creativity, and perseverance - ultimately turning adversity into a springboard for personal growth.

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?

Danielle> While I've always enjoyed problem-solving and taking initiative, the confidence to embrace leadership didn’t truly emerge until after founding my own company. A game-changer for me was when I finally understood that inspirational leadership - not just management - was the key to success for my agency. Over time, I have overcome most (not all!) of my imposter syndrome and am better able to recognise my aptitude for leadership.

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?

Danielle> I believe great leadership is a mix of what you're born with and what you learn along the way. Obviously things like instincts and certain personality traits can give you a head start. But becoming a top-notch leader really comes from never-ending learning, guidance, and real-world experience. It's all about balancing your natural abilities with the skills you pick up over time.

LBB> In terms of leadership and openness, what’s your approach there? Do you think it’s important to be transparent as possible in the service of being authentic? Or is there a value in being careful and considered?

Danielle> I believe openness and careful consideration aren't necessarily at odds. Being open and vulnerable are crucial parts of good leadership. But knowing your audience is equally important. If, for example, I’m upset about losing a big client, sharing this openly might worry a new employee who doesn't fully understand the situation. So, it's about striking a balance - being honest, but also mindful of how your messages might be received.

LBB> As a leader, what are some of the ways in which you’ve prioritised diversity and inclusion within your workforce?

Danielle> At my agency, we have been incredibly intentional about integrating diversity and inclusion into our culture. My leadership team and I believe in the power of different voices and experiences, so we've made sure every member of our team feels confident to stand up for inclusion and against any kind of unfair treatment. As part of our commitment to a culture of equity, we offer ongoing oppression reduction and social justice training for all employees, utilising the Strengths Finder framework. This proactive approach ensures that diversity and inclusion aren't merely buzzwords, but inherent aspects of our agency culture.

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?

Danielle> Our company culture is vital to our success. We've cultivated a strong work-life balance with a flexible four-day work week and use HeyTaco, a Slack-based reward system, to keep our team motivated. Regular training and volunteer days further enrich our culture. While our team has always been remote and required no adjustment during the pandemic, digital tools like Slack (with fun internal channels like 'The magic of Trader Joe’s' and 'I Like Big Books') keep us connected and our culture vibrant, ensuring our core values remain intact.

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

Danielle> The top resource that's really helped me on my leadership path is Vistage. It offers a mix of educational talks from big-name speakers, a support network of fellow leaders, and mentorship from my group chair. This organisation has been a game-changer for me, because it’s provided me with valuable insights, instilled accountability, and fostered a supportive environment for personal and professional growth. 

view more - Bossing It
Sign up to our newsletters and stay up to date with the best work and breaking ad news from around the world.
Marketing Matters, Tue, 06 Jun 2023 15:38:21 GMT