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Bossing It: Resilience, Hard Graft and a Sense of Humour with Annie Gallimore


Managing director at ACNE London on being transparent and a true believer in authentic leadership

Bossing It: Resilience, Hard Graft and a Sense of Humour with Annie Gallimore

Annie Gallimore is the managing director of ACNE London, having joined from Engine in 2021, to run Deloitte Digital’s creative brand and offering.

Annie began her advertising career at Abbott Mead Vickers. She has worked both client and agency side of the industry leading multi-award-winning integrated campaigns for multiple organisations, including large international brands and the public sector.

Annie has held leadership positions at Grey London as managing partner, where she worked on the much applauded, and awarded, Vinnie Jones work for the British Heart Foundation.

Client side, Annie was head of marketing at Waterstones, launching their website and loyalty scheme.

Annie sits on the IPA Council, and is passionate about mentoring women across the creative industry. She also leads the Talent Leadership Group at the IPA, which focuses on diversity and representation in our industry.

LBB> What was your first experience of leadership?

Annie> At school I was voted to lead the middle school house I was in; quite an esteemed position as it meant I got to wear a different coloured tie and ring the lunch bell, as well as help the little ones and lead by example. I was 15 and, of course, hugely naïve to what ‘leadership’ meant. But I liked ringing the bell. 

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?

Annie> A lot of my leadership style comes from who I am, instinctively, as a person. So, I am a transparent leader, who actively collaborates with others, and gets things done. But I have also mirrored the behaviour of great leaders I have had in my career.

I am not necessarily a visionary leader, mainly because I am too practical a person, and more often than not when I have worked for this type of leader, the day to day has got missed, which sees the team getting overlooked and/or confused. 

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

Annie> Through a key pitch for the agency, we knew we were ahead of the pack and set to win it. Having been decisive and focused on the direction we were going down, I wobbled and fell into a ‘what if’ mindset which almost got the better of me and meant we would have deviated and wasted time. My ECD told me to trust my instincts and it brought me back to the one direction. We won the pitch.

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?

Annie> I never actively set out to ‘lead’, I just knew I was ambitious and kept wanting to do more. But this was mainly because I am constantly wanting to learn new things and meet new people. Learning from a fantastic, human, diligent, intelligent, and ultimately fair boss at Waterstones meant I felt properly inspired to go for it myself. 

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?

Annie> I am sure that leadership can be taught and learned, from great leaders or bad. But I am a true believer in authentic leadership, so for me, personality is key. 

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

Annie> Imposter syndrome plays a large part in my life, annoyingly. I find I have to stop, look back at what I’ve achieved, remind myself of my experience and successes quite often in order to get me back on track. But the most challenging is, of course, the idea of letting down my team for whatever reason; it is a key aspect of the job, but never gets easier. 

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?

Annie> See answer above re imposter syndrome! But I’m not sure that’s failure - in fact, ‘failed’ is pretty strong a word. Of course, I have made wrong decisions, but you have to do what you have to at the time, to the best of your ability, with the information you have available, and land on it. And then move on. 

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?

Annie> I am always as open and genuine as I can possibly be; it goes with my authentic style. Without communication people jump to conclusions and that is damaging. But I am very mindful of circumstance when too much honesty is going to do harm. So, of course there is a value in being careful and considered at the right time.  

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?

Annie> I have been lucky enough to have had truly inspiring and brilliant bosses, from Alison Chadwick at AMV BBDO, to Julia Cove-Smith at Waterstones, and Simon Peck at Engine, so they have all mentored me along the way - sometimes by osmosis, and other times more formally. I have done the same to a raft of fantastic women in my career, particularly when I was at Engine, as well as some clients. I have to tell myself frequently that no one can lead on their own; the adage of a village raising a child is also true in business. 

LBB> It's been a really challenging few years - and that's an understatement. How do you lead a team out the other side of a difficult period?

Annie> Resilience, hard graft, and a sense of humour. 

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ACNE London, Mon, 06 Mar 2023 11:05:00 GMT