13 Reasons Why... Leaders need to empathise

Want to take a step up in managing your team? Megan Hallinan, Head of PR & Social at MBA discusses what she learned from the popular TV series ‘13 Reasons Why’ on how a leader should empathise with their team.

Our industry is fast-paced, arguably changing daily and more quickly than ever – particularly in the Social PR world which my team specialises in. With exciting new client briefs coming in and new things to learn all the time, we need to react quickly. It’s commonplace to get into the office, make sure the work we do for our clients meets and exceeds expectations and then go home at the end of the day, without taking a step back, taking stock and thinking about how things are working in the team itself.

While my agency ensures our employees receive all the training and learning from senior staff they need, it is always good to review new methods and best practices to manage and lead our teams to be the absolute best that we can be.

I recently attended a training course at the IPA on ‘Team Leadership and Management’ featuring talks by Grow People’s Alison Chadwick, BBH’s former Chairman Jim Carroll, O&M London’s Charlie Rudd, and Karmarama’s Liz Wilson. As well as a panel discussion featuring Innovation Disorder’s Nadya Powell, AAR Group’s Kerry Glazer, Above+Beyond’s Zaid Al-Zaidy and MBA’s Stephen Maher. What an opportunity to hear from such a pedigree of industry experts, all in one room.

For the assessment we were asked to write an essay around ‘a situation we had dealt with previously that we may now deal with differently’. I started the essay by addressing the recent Netflix series '13 Reasons Why', based on the 2007 novel by Jay Asher. It tackles a sensitive subject: the suicide of a teenage girl who documents the events leading to her taking her own life through a series of recorded cassette tapes that she then distributes to the 13 peers who she blames for the actions she is tragically about to take.

You might be wondering what this could possibly have to do with both the IPA management course and the essay. The reason I referenced it is because it highlighted to me that we need to understand how to market to the next generation – how to connect with them on a professional and personal level. We need to empathise with them. Ultimately a leader in today's society needs to understand the experiences and expectations of this generation to get the most out of them. After all, they will be running our agencies and marketing teams in the near future, so what examples are we setting for them?

In the same way that as an industry, we're always looking at new trends and to understand how new technologies and media can work to serve our clients, we also need to understand the changes in the way that people work with each generation that walks through our doors. People can't all be led in the same way. You can't play a magic flute like the Pied Piper and expect everyone to follow. A good leader will play different tunes to different members of his or her team to encourage them to get behind them and their plans and ideas. And to me, that's the best route to success.

The Leadership course is for people with 3-6 years’ experience in the industry, who are responsible for managing teams and their clients’ business. It will help them learn how to lead themselves and the people who work into and around them in order to build a happier and more productive team.

Last updated 21 January 2022