The IPA Business & Agency Leadership Residential Course is a unique, immersive opportunity for emerging industry leaders to build on the skill sets needed to make the leap up to leadership. This year’s highly successful course was held in Sydney in August, co-chaired by Michael Rebelo (CEO Publicis Groupe Australia & NZ) and Laura Aldington (CEO Host/Havas) who were joined by an impressive speaker line-up of industry luminaries. The Communications Council chatted with two course delegates, Rebecca Turner and Oliver Ward, to get their personal insights into the course.

TCC: How long have you been in the advertising industry, and could you fill us in on the main responsibilities of your current role?

Bec: I’ve been working in the industry for eight years and am now the Business Director at The Core Agency in Sydney. My role is to oversee the account service team to ensure successful partnerships with our clients. This covers a range of things from working with clients to understand where we can add value, to supporting the team to ensure they have what they need, and managing overall profitability.

Ollie: I started in 2005 as an Account Exec at George Patts in Melbourne.
Currently, I’m the Client Service Director at Digitas. We’re part of the Publicis Groupe. My role involves leading the Melbourne team of twelve and running our main pieces of business including FCA (Jeep, Alfa Romeo, FIAT & Chrysler). A big part of my position is also new business.

TCC: What was your main motivation for taking part in the IPA Business & Agency Leadership Course?

Bec: I recently joined the agency’s leadership team so was keen to learn from other leaders about their own successes (and learnings) to help refine my style and continue to be a better leader for my team.

Ollie: I’ve always felt that the skills that get you to a position of leadership at an agency rarely have anything to do with being a good leader. Leadership is seen as something you either have innately or just pick-up passively along the way. That’s never sat comfortably with me.

TCC: How did you first hear about the course?

Bec: I subscribe to the Comms Council eDMs and had been researching some training for two of our Senior Account Managers. In the process I discovered the course and was really impressed by the line-up of speakers – it looked too good to pass up!

Ollie: I’ve been on various Comms Council courses during my career – this one was recommended by my bosses.

TCC: Did you have any specific learnings that you wanted to be able to take away from the course?

Bec: I was most keen to learn about building a thriving team culture, refining my own leadership style and getting practical advice for further driving the agency’s success.

Ollie: Aside from the obvious outcomes of being a more confident and effective leader, I wanted to take away things that I could adapt and apply to my own personality and style.

TCC: What was your favourite and/or most memorable aspect of the course?

Bec: Hearing from industry leaders in an informal setting was definitely the most memorable. While our agencies might all compete, everyone put that to one side on the day and had really candid conversations – the good and the bad. Nothing was off limits and the complete honesty was so refreshing. This was all thanks to the tone Laura and Mike set from day one.

Ollie: It’s broad, but my favourite aspect was simply the intimate exposure we had to so many industry heavyweights. Without exception, they all spoke candidly about their journeys – warts and all. It’s a perspective I didn’t think we’d see and helped me shake a lot of cynicism about our industry. Each leader shared the often personal stories that shaped their leadership values and how they try to live them each day. It was inspiring.

TCC: How did you find the structure/format of the course and do you think the ‘immersive’ residential format was important?

Bec: It was fantastic. The residential format means you can really get away from the everyday distractions and truly take in the course content. Plus, you get to build relationships with your agency peers which is critical in our industry.

Ollie: I had already read books, listened to podcasts and listened to lectures about leadership. But I learned more in three immersive days than I have in my career to date. The residential format is crucial. Without it, it would be easy to allow the ever-present pressures and obligations of the office creep in and distract our focus. The collegiate vibe was also fantastic. Being able to spend time outside of the course hours to get to know my peers in the industry, share our experiences and debrief after each day definitely made the experience more valuable.

TCC: How do you think that what you learned from the course will help in your career development?

Bec: Immensely. I’ve already spent hours running over my notes to figure out how I can categorise the learnings and socialise through the different areas of my role. It was the perfect blend of practical tips and sharing of experiences. I think my team are already sick of me saying ‘on my course they said…’!

Ollie: Functionally, I’ve learnt how to maintain my focus and ways to track my career progress. I’ve also learned some invaluable steps that I believe will accelerate my current trajectory.