Unlocking the Secrets of Exceptional Leadership

Wisdom from Communications Trailblazers


Jolie Downs


What is one of the biggest reasons strong talent will make a change to a new company? Weak management. Effective leadership is the crucial ingredient to the recipe that creates a successful team and therefore, a successful company. Leaders who know how to build thriving teams result in higher quality output, enhanced innovation, efficient problem solving, improved customer satisfaction, and lower overall costs. Not to mention the increased employee engagement and retention which leads to huge savings, preservation of institutional knowledge, and the attraction of top talent, which is all associated with low turnover. But what does it take to be an exceptional leader who inspires, motivates, and drives success? We've gathered insights from some of the most accomplished communications executives to uncover the secrets of mastering leadership. Their wisdom will help you elevate your leadership skills, build stronger teams, and create a thriving work environment.

Lead with Authenticity and Integrity

Katie Huang Shin, President of Big Valley Marketing, emphasizes the importance of the "mirror test." As a leader, you must conduct yourself in a way that makes you proud of the person looking back at you. Your decisions and actions impact not only your team but also your company.

How do you feel about your leadership when you take an honest look in the mirror?

Are there adjustments that could be made?

Prioritize responsibility and integrity, always considering how your choices affect those around you.

Empower and Lift Your Team

Katie reminds us, that leadership is not about you; it's about the people you lead. She suggests you seek opportunities to lift your team up. Even when you are in times of struggle, you buckle down, focus on finding the solutions, and figure out how to make things work the best for your team. When you empower others, you create a rising tide that lifts everyone, including yourself.

Janel Steinberg, Head of US at Liberty Communications, highlights the significance of managing people the way they want to be managed. Take the time to understand each team member's preferences and adapt your leadership style accordingly. Some may thrive under pressure, while others require more guidance or autonomy. By tailoring your approach, you'll bring out the best in each individual.

Nicole Messier, President of Mission North, feels the same and suggests creating a "How to Work with Me" document to share your communication and feedback preferences with your team, fostering better understanding and collaboration. As a manager create one that you provide new employees, and ask your new team members to create one for themselves so you know how to manage efficiently.

Lead with Kindness and Empathy

Janel Steinberg also emphasizes the importance of leading with kindness. Strive to see everyone's point of view and remember that you never know what personal challenges someone may be facing. Approach leadership with compassion and understanding, as it doesn't require any additional effort but can make a world of difference. A kind and efficient leader is one that is difficult to leave.

Fred Bateman, CEO of Bateman Agency, believes in leading from an empathetic nature. He subscribes to the principles of radical candor and transparency. Everything is shared with his team, even everyone’s salaries, which removes the secrecy and agendas and results in equal pay for equal work. By fostering an environment of openness and honesty, he has built trust and engagement within his team. Consider sharing key information, such as company financials and salaries, to create a culture of equality and transparency.

When handling difficult situations, like terminations, Fred Bateman stresses the importance of empathy and kindness. Treat people with respect and offer guidance in their future endeavors, even if they are not the right fit for your organization. You never know when a former employee may become a future client or advocate for your business.

Build Strong Relationships

Nicole Messier shares a valuable lesson she learned from a C-suite mentor who invested time in getting to know her team, building relationships, and educating them. As a leader, prioritize relationship-building and take a genuine interest in your team members' lives outside of work. Don’t start your days or meetings with immediate work questions or orders, ask about their lives. Remember details about their personal interests, celebrate their milestones, and show that you care about them as individuals.

Angela Griffo echoes this sentiment, emphasizing the importance of being genuinely interested in your team members' lives beyond work. Ask about their families, hobbies, and challenges and find ways to help them thrive. Show empathy and understanding when they face personal issues, and always prioritize their well-being. By doing so you’ll build strong, authentic relationships, and you’ll create a supportive and loyal team.

Natalie Maguire, SVP Communications with GIPHY, learned a powerful lesson in leadership when she made a mistake early in her career. Instead of being reprimanded, her manager responded with calmness and kindness, focusing on different solutions Natalie had proposed. This experience taught Natalie the importance of leading with kindness and solutions-focused thinking. As a leader, embrace mistakes as learning opportunities and empower your team to grow from them.

Additional Leadership Insights

- Nicole Messier also ensures her meetings are run efficiently, with a strong agenda that gets them in and out in 15 minutes. Before scheduling a meeting, she asks herself, could this be done in an email?

- Kendall Sadler, Director of Communications with Remitly, reminds leaders to look for ways that their team members can grow within the company, even if they aren’t seeking it out themselves. Bring attention to their strengths and areas you can see them excel in the future. Are you holding out your hand to lift up members of your team?

- Angela Griffo suggests celebrating any wins, big or little, immediately. Give them the voice and enjoyment deserved and highlight those wins when they happen. Do not wait until the next team meeting or internal newsletter. Angela feels the same about feedback, it is best when given immediately.

All leaders agree:

- Continuously invest in your own growth and development as a leader. Seek out mentors, attend workshops, and read leadership books to expand your skills and perspective.

- Lead by example. Embody the values, work ethic, and behaviors you wish to see in your team.

- Cultivate a culture of psychological safety where team members feel comfortable sharing ideas, asking questions, and taking risks.

Becoming an exceptional leader is a journey that requires self-awareness, empathy, and a commitment to lifelong learning. By implementing the insights shared by these accomplished communications executives, you'll be well on your way to mastering the art of leadership. Remember, your success as a leader is measured by the success and well-being of your team. Embrace the opportunity to inspire, empower, and guide others to reach their full potential.

Katie Huan Shin, President of Big Valley Marketing:


Janel Steinberg, Head of US at Liberty Communications: https://www.linkedin.com/in/janelsteinberg/

Fred Bateman, CEO and Founder of Bateman Agency: https://www.linkedin.com/in/fredbateman/

Nicole Messier-Marino, President of Mission North: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nicolemessier/

Angela Griffo, VP Corporate Communications at Socure: https://www.linkedin.com/in/angela-griffo-7ab7523/

Natalie Maguire, SVP of Communications at GIPHY:


Kendall Sadler, Director of Communications & PR at Remitly:


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