I didn't get where I am today... by making little plans

Matt Neale, president, international at GolinHarris, explains how he got to the top.

When I was an account executive back at Shandwick, I pitched up to the leaving party of one of the agency’s grandees. He was heading to Hong Kong and took a shine to me. On leaving he said: "Matt, this game is easy, just win and you’ll go far." That advice was probably all you needed in the 90s. Today, it’ll only get you so far. I always want to win, but equally value an emotio­nal connection with the brand for which I work.

A couple of months ago in Cannes, I heard the CEO of Coca-Cola Muhtar Kent answer the question: "What is leadership?" He said something like "set a strong vision and create an environment where achieving it is more likely to happen". What stunning simplicity. I pride myself on never having finished chapter two of a management book – and now you don’t have to either.

The question then becomes, how do you get to a position where you set the vision? For me it was a combination of passion, loyalty, timing and a CEO who gave me the space to grow. I try to hire the brightest people and let them shine.

Al Golin once told me his favourite piece of advice came from Daniel Burnham, the visionary architect who built much of Chicago: "Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and will not themselves be realised." I can’t even come close to beating that advice.

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