Why making sure to lead with humanity will always matter

Preparing to face a new junction in life, I have recently been afforded the truly delicious opportunity to spend some dedicated time in deep reflection and evaluation.

During this process, I’ve been exploring and analysing the importance of leadership throughout my career and the avenues available to me now that allow me to practice it.

Over the years, I have witnessed and experienced first many various leadership styles, from the authoritarian days of radio newsrooms, where editors would dissect my weekly bulletins with relentless precision, to the more balanced work-life culture of an Aussie comms agency, where a people-first approach is actually celebrated.

In my experience, successful business outcomes and revenue goals are achieved when balanced with a people-first approach. When leading with empathy, you create a supportive culture that works as a collective, achieving results because they want to, not because they are told to.

I am grateful for the opportunity to be inspired and mentored by remarkable communications leaders throughout my career. This has allowed me to observe, learn, and incorporate the best models into my own style. The outcome resulted in prioritising the well-being and support of my team as the cornerstone of my leadership approach, and I’m not alone.

A 2023 Gallup survey found that companies with highly engaged employees—closely tied to people-first cultures—experience 21% higher profitability.

Additionally, Bain & Company research reveals that organisations emphasising employee well-being enjoy 2.5 times higher revenue growth than those that do not.

2 woman smiling at camera holding award

Fiona Nwoke and former colleague Rebecca Peck at an Award Ceremony.

It's not just about ticking boxes with perks like free snacks or social gatherings, although who doesn’t love a piece of chocolate to get you through 3 pm? The true power lies in genuine empathy and lived experiences, which I've found to be the most potent tools in my leadership style.

This is why diverse leadership teams, inclusive of various age groups, backgrounds, and lifestyles, are crucial. An echo chamber of similar viewpoints will eventually only stifle growth and innovation.

Our experiences, both professional and personal, shape us and provide the skills to either build up or break down those we manage. Effective leadership isn't solely about theoretical knowledge or numerous training sessions.

It’s about merging authenticity, personal connection, and established credentials to create a balance that earns respect and influence.

Walking this line is an art I am continually working to refine. Maintaining professionalism is vital, but showing your team where your priorities lie, alongside genuine care for their experiences, leads to significantly better results.

By investing in individuals and their aspirations, I was honoured to be recognised as Mentor of the Year at B&T’s Women in Media awards in 2021.

More recently, through the Future Communicators Foundation (FCF), and Icon’s generous sponsorship program to address social issues, I have mentored two RMIT graduates entering the communications field.

By having personalised sessions focusing on their interests and sharing realistic career stories, we quickly built a strong connection. One of these graduates has now joined Icon Agency full-time, impressing colleagues across the board.

Success in life and work hinges on relationships. By prioritising connection, community, and compassion, we can function as a cohesive team and achieve results that far exceed those of a solo effort.

While my core expertise remains in integrated communications, my passion for people management and leadership development grows stronger each year.

This passion has only intensified since becoming a mother, and as I prepare to welcome my second child and career break I aspire to use this time to find new ways to translate my new life skills into impactful career tools.

At Icon Agency, if you ask anyone why they show up each day, 90% of the time, the first response is—the people.

For me, the future of successful agency teams lies in remembering the basic principles of life.

We must travel together and genuinely enjoy the journey with those around us for everyone to feel inspired and motivated to play their part.

4 icon employees with sydney opera house in the background

Make what matters.
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