Nick Colucci, CEO, Publicis Health, meeting with Publicis Health agencies 2016 intern class.

Be the Leader You Want to Follow

By Nick Colucci, CEO, Publicis Health

Anyone who has spent a few years in the workforce has experienced his or her fair share of great bosses — and some not-so-great. Whether it’s toiling under the micro-managing thumb of a Machiavellian schemer or basking in the glow of a supportive Gandhi-like mentor, we’ve all had to learn how to navigate through workplace complexities when dealing with our direct supervisors. That is, until we become leaders ourselves.

For those of us who manage others — especially those of us in senior roles — we sometimes forget what it means to lead. Instead of always considering the tremendous responsibility and privilege that leadership has bestowed upon us, we fall into a detached and autocratic pattern of behavior based on either past experiences or trying to model what we think great leaders are supposed to be like.

While I’m sure there is such a thing as a natural-born leader, I’m more inclined to believe that great leaders are developed, always working hard at their craft. It’s true that many good leaders share common traits, such as confidence, passion and drive, but great leaders are often great for reasons that are unique to them. That’s because unique organizations and teams require the leadership of equally unique individuals.

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned over my nearly 35-year career and 10-year tenure as CEO of Publicis Health, it’s that everybody deserves to have a great boss, and the only way that can happen is if we (and by we, I mean my executive leadership team and me) bring our whole, authentic selves to our leadership practice, and role-model the behavior that we seek from others. After all, we’re not just saying what to do, we’re doing what we say — that’s integrity! And hopefully, we’re also helping to develop the next generation of great leaders from within our own ranks.

There are a few principles that have helped me to define my approach to leadership and serve as guideposts for my leadership team:

  1. Build trust with many small gestures and actions, not just a few big ones.
  2. Always work with your head, your heart and your hands.
  3. Share your humanity, humility and vulnerability.
  4. Surround yourself with talented and passionate people who complement your strengths and shore up your weaknesses.
  5. Make it personal.

I do not always have all of the answers when it comes to leadership, and I’ve fumbled a few times along the way. Being comfortable in your own skin, being open to critical feedback and learning from mistakes is the only way that any of us can get better. Fortunately for me, I’ve learned from incredible bosses, colleagues and staff on how to become a better leader every day, and I hope I can impart a little bit of wisdom to help members of my team to become the kind of leaders they’d want to follow.


Nick Colucci is CEO of Publicis Health, the world’s premier healthcare communications agency network.

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