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: Susan Machtiger on Leading with Inspiration and Motivation


Ogilvy Consulting's North America president on being transparent, always having a north star and why a leader has to earn it

Bossing It: Susan Machtiger on Leading with Inspiration and Motivation

Susan Machtiger is president of Ogilvy Consulting NA, Ogilvy’s worldwide strategic consultancy, working with client C Suites on their toughest strategic challenges. She focuses on building powerful brands by applying over 20 years of experience to strategic challenges ranging from business transformation to brand innovation. Since joining Ogilvy Consulting, Susan has led major initiatives to instil new relevance in large global brands, as well as creating distinctive new brands, along with the business and marketing plans needed to bring them to life. 

Susan has worked with C Suites globally across Asia, Europe, South America, and the United States, with a particular focus on the intersection of business, people, and technology. Prior to joining Ogilvy, Susan held senior strategic leadership roles with JWT, Y&R, and Landor. She also ran her own independent marketing consultancy. Born in Austria and fluent in Hungarian, she now makes New York City her home base.

LBB> What was your first experience of leadership?

Susan> In high school and college, I ran select publications and organisations, and I learned that being in charge and having a title does not make you a leader. A leader is someone that has to earn it. And someone that has to be able to motivate others to WANT TO build something together with you. 

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?  

Susan> Unfortunately I had a lot of experience early in my career with very autocratic and controlling leaders, who preferred to command and control. So I was very clear that was not who I wanted to be. I definitely wanted to be a more inspirational and motivational leader, so people would feel good about what they were doing every day.

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

Susan> I had just been elected to the school board the weeks before September 11th. That was a trauma like no other for kids, faculty, leaders and parents. It was a test not only of what actions you took but how you took them.

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?

Susan> I never went after leadership for its own sake, but I did always feel like I had a sense of always having a north star. I think purpose, and a ‘why’ are very important parts of leadership. People need to feel that what they are doing has a purpose and it matters in the world.

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?

Susan> I think a small part of it is who you are, but I do believe that a lot of it can be coached and learned. In work and life, it is helpful to be self-aware and watching out for feedback, direct or subtle. If you read the cues carefully, you can easily see what is turning people off or on and how to fine tune what you are doing.

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

Susan> When you see in retrospect that you should have done things differently or not said certain things…. but all you can do at that point is just learn from it.

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?

Susan> Whenever someone leaves the team, I feel like I failed them. The truth is that often the choice is a very personal life choice and that is OK, people need to own their lives. But I never want to lose a single person I care about.

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?

Susan> I tend to lean towards transparency, as that is what inspires trust I believe. I would rather be human and flawed, than perfect and packaged, as I think the latter is inauthentic. Everyone is their own kind of leader, and that’s great.

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?

Susan> It has been difficult, and every person has had their own way of coping. So it is important to be respectful of what each person is going through as it differs widely. It really is one person at a time. But also it helps to have the team support each other, so leadership is shared.

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?

Susan> I have personally tried to create DEI programs and also walk the talk by seeking out candidates in every situation. 

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?

Susan> Our culture is critical to our success…and it was tough during the pandemic. But now that we are coming out of it, it is a slow but incremental journey to nudge people into seeing the value of working together again. So it is even more important than ever that when we do get together, we make it meaningful and make it great. If the value is not there, people will stop coming into the office again.

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

Susan> Coaches, other fabulous leaders and mostly the people that work for you that are honest with you.

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.
Ogilvy North America, Wed, 12 Apr 2023 10:15:28 GMT