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Bossing It: Knowing When to Lean in and When to Step Out of the Way with Pranav Pandit


dentsu X US' chief media officer on responsible transparency, the sluggish pace of change and trusting your gut

Bossing It: Knowing When to Lean in and When to Step Out of the Way with Pranav Pandit

Pranav Pandit is chief media officer for dentsu X US, where he oversees strategy, content and innovation. In this role Pranav is responsible for elevating the dentsu X story and evolving the agency’s product offering to defy convention in media and unlock the next paths to growth for its robust roster of clients. 

Pranav has over two decades of experience in the marketing industry having spent time at a mix of media and creative agencies. Over the course of his career, he has helped transform iconic brands like Gatorade, State Farm, REI, the US Marines, Morton Salt and many others.  

Pranav is passionate about driving change by promoting diversity of thought, unique approaches to marketing, and bringing together a wider range of people to the process. He is innovative at heart, always looking for ways to utilise the tools of the future in the present.

LBB> What was your first experience of leadership? 

Pranav> I was thrust into a leadership role under the close watch of Doug Rozen, CEO of dentsu Media, Americas, back in 2004 when he hired me at J. Walter Thompson. I say thrust because I was young and probably not ready to take on the mantle of “running a division” so it took a minute to understand the difference between managing and leading.

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? 

Pranav> It is something that I have figured out over time and continue to work on. But along the way I recognised that my approach to leadership hinges on understanding the situation. More specifically, knowing when to lean in and when to step out of the way.

LBB> What are the aspects of leadership that you find most personally challenging? And how do you work through them? 

Pranav> The challenge of “Situational Leadership” is the never-ending pursuit of understanding what’s actually happening. Therefore, I try my best to run towards things instead of away. That includes conflict which can be terrifying but ultimately a learning moment.

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?

Pranav> If I had a dollar for every time… 

I’ve had failures big and small. I wouldn’t be where I’m at today if things went another way. Translation: it’s ALL a learning moment.

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? 

Pranav> I skew towards responsible transparency. Beyond legal/financial information that requires discretion, it takes extra effort to be thoughtful about what you’re sharing and who it might impact. From the earliest days of being in a leadership position, I’ve tried to lift the veil on what I perceived as a junior employee as being mysterious or a secret. “Why won’t they just be honest with us?” is something I’d cringe at hearing from a team member.

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? 

Pranav> I’ve drawn inspiration from many peers and mentors. Too many to name. Candidly I’ve also learned what type of leader I don’t want to be from observing those around me. Just as valuable. And yes, I have coached and mentored up-and-coming talent beyond functional skills and focused on soft skills that are critical to succeed.

LBB> It's been a really challenging year - and that's an understatement. How do you cope with the responsibility of leading a team through such difficult waters? 

Pranav> For me personally, challenging is an understatement. It’s been the toughest year of my life. But I’m proud to say I’ve persevered and while the hits keep coming, my armour is thicker than ever thanks to a continued goal of moving forward, the love and support of my wife and family and strength from close friends.

LBB> This year has seen the industry confronted with its lack of action/progress on diversity and inclusion. As a leader how have you dealt with this? 

Pranav> As a person of colour, I’ve experienced the sluggish pace of change first hand and it’s made me even more empathetic to the struggles of a wide variety of groups. I try to lead by example while also knowing there is still much to learn.

LBB> How important is your company culture to the success of your business? And how have you managed to keep it alive with staff working remotely in 2020? 

Pranav> Culture is a tricky subject. It’s the combination of so many things that it’s often hard to nurture any one of them. For example, a strong planning process probably doesn’t rank high on people’s list of what contributes to culture but without it, you risk having a culture of inconsistency and zero accountability. As agency leaders we’re seeing that no amount of ping pong tables or free bagel Fridays can make up for shaky infrastructure and lack of empathy.

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

Pranav> Your gut. Nuff said.

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dentsu X, Wed, 22 Mar 2023 11:35:00 GMT