What does it take to become an effective chief executive? Suki Thompson reveals her thoughts in Campaign.

UK business leadership is obsessed with understanding how to make its people better, its vision and purpose more specific, and putting the customer at its heart. Our advertising industry still obsesses about whether one famous person has greater pull than another, she writes.

Drawing on observations gathered over the past two years on what top chief executives are doing to make their businesses better, Suki lists four key points:

Persuasion, not command

Leadership is no longer just about what you know; it’s the ability to persuade a wide range of people at different levels of hierarchy to work effectively together, internally and externally. Richard Jolly, adjunct professor of or­ganisational behaviour at London Business School, believes: “Business needs to be flexible, innovative and open – often the best innovation happens far from the boardroom.”

Common purpose

Ronan Dunne, the chief executive of O2: “My role is chief cheerleader and chief storyteller.”

Culture plays a key part in business growth but must be credible, sustainable and buyable.

Data, financial literacy and communication

Jill McDonald, Halfords CEO, suggests that “marketers need to be financially literate, understand how the business works and use data and facts to back up decisions”. Suki points to Jill’s widely recognised ability to communicate – one of the attributes chief executives now all agree they need.


Authentic leadership means the courage to confront the difficult conversations. Change can be messy and ugly, but leadership is about doing all the things that others lack the courage to do.

Please click here to read the full article in Campaign.