Introducing our panelists

Sarah Harbon, General Manager, Benefit Cosmetics; James Hawes, Director Chris Hirst, Global CEO, Havas Creative

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On Tuesday 10th September we'll be challenging our panel to share their views on what leadership means now - and how that is going to change in a future who's only constant is change. 

Sarah Harbon, General Manager UK & Ireland, Benefit Cosmetics

LVMH’s Benefit Cosmetics’ Sarah Harbon knows all about leadership.  As the General Manager for the UK’s No 1* Prestige Cosmetics brand, every day she leads over 2,500 employees across the UK and Ireland.  Challenging times require fearless leadership. Nowhere is this more evident than in the UK and Ireland today, in an ever-changing landscape with rapidly evolving customer behaviours.  

Since it’s arrival to the UK over 20 years ago, Benefit Cosmetics has been quick to predict and prepare for emerging retail trends and localised consumer behaviours.  Agile, consumer-centric brands have strong leadership, and Sarah has led many first-to-market initiatives responsible for the market domination that Benefit Cosmetics enjoys.  Benefit Cosmetics’ very different and often disruptive approach was the first to offer a fresh alternative to the traditional premium beauty business model in many senses be that not doing any traditional above the line print or TV advertising to being the first beauty brand to truly embrace the digital world.

In defining her leadership strategy, Sarah would be the first to say that the success of Benefit Cosmetics is due to finding great people who share her passion and bring their own personalities and skills to the show.  And once you find them you have to empower them to do the job you’ve employed them to do!  Bravery is also important to Sarah and she knows that falling over from time to time is just part of the process -  we just shouldn’t get too good at it!!  Everyone working with Benefit should feel they're part of something special and that hard work and fun should come in equal measure.  After all, ‘Laughter is the best cosmetic’. 

 * Source: The NPD Group. Value and Unit Division sales of Total Prestige Beauty 

James Hawes, Director 

Brought up in Cornwall and Peru, James is one of the leading television directors in the UK whose career break came launching David Tennant as the 10th Doctor Who, directing the first ever DOCTOR WHO Christmas Special. 

In the last few years he has directed for Netflix, BBC, Sky, C4, TNT, ShowtimeNat Geo. In 2018/19, James was Lead and Producing Director on SNOWPIERCER for TNT, earning a pre-broadcast second season pick-up.  

James is one of a select few to have directed two films for BLACK MIRROR. His feature-length season finale ‘Hated In The Nation’starring Kelly MacDonald, was described as the ‘stand-out‘ episode of the series. ‘Smithereens’, starring Andrew Scott, aired in June this year.

He has worked with Academy Award winners William Hurt, Jennifer Connelly and Geoffrey Rush; Academy Award nominees Helena Bonham Carter and Sophie Okenedo, Golden Globe Nominee Eva Green, and has even directed His Royal Highness, Prince Charles.

Winner of Best Single Drama Award at the Royal Television Society Awards in March 2014, nominated for Best Director BAFTA for his film ENID which also earned an International Emmy and a BAFTA nomination for Helena Bonham Carter, James was listed in the top five most influential directors of 2013 by leading industry magazine, Broadcast.

 Chris Hirst, Global CEO, Havas Creative

Chris Hirst is a change agent, widely recognized as an innovative and inspirational leader. After a decade in CEO positions he has a proven track record of leading transformation. He is currently Global CEO of Havas Creative – a multi-disciplinary marketing services group.

Once an engineering graduate working in a glass factory, his career path has taken him to the boardroom via Oxford University and Harvard Business School. Whilst at Harvard, Chris developed his now-proven approach to leadership. He believes in the principles of an open culture – where people are given permission to take risks and make mistakes. He is actively engaged in broadening the appeal of the advertising industry and sees diversity and social mobility as key factors in the future health of the creative industries.

Chris is on the UK Council at entertainment giant Vivendi and a trustee of the MOBO Foundation. Named in 2018's Evening Standard Power 1000 list and #3 in Campaign magazine's most influential, Chris is also a regular speaker and commentator in national press including BBC News, The Politics Show, Evening Standard, CNBC, Financial Times and Sky News.

His first book, ‘No Bullsh*t Leadership: Why The World Needs More Everyday Leaders And Why That Leader Is You’ was published by Profile Books in May 2019.


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