Professor and Dean Simon Mercado “Trust is integral to leadership, so it’s important for me to build a sense of mutual trust with those I work with; Impacting peoples lives positively is the biggest motivator of all.”

Kate Mowbray
Jan 23 · 5 min read

As a leader, I really emphasise the importance of a unifying sense of purpose, of building a narrative around shared values, mission and vision. I have always believed in the power of a vision and a compelling narrative to go with it. There is an element of good storytelling in effective leadership but the basics rest with good strategy and execution. I would also describe my approach as entrepreneurial. I find real excitement in breaking new ground or getting new projects or programmes launched. I also love to support people’s ability to be innovative and try to provide room for that. Above all else, trust is integral to leadership, so it’s important for me to build a sense of mutual trust with those with whom I work. This extends from people’s trust in you to get things done the right way through to your basic sense of fairness.


I had the pleasure of interviewing the Dean of ESCP Business School London, Simon Mercado. He is a firm believer in the power of international education and experience, hoping that education could halt this rush towards populism and anti-liberalism. He runs the London campus of the pan-European School and apart from managing the Brexit challenge, he is devoted to teaching others about the importance of sustainability and the impact of our carbon footprint.


Thank you so much for joining us Professor Mercado! Why did you pursue this career path?

I never actively intended to pursue a career in academia. As a young man I combined press agency work with higher education and was really targeting a career in journalism or PR. However, the inclination to investigate and write upon matters of business and politics was always there as was the desire to live an international life. That eventually took me into this field where my initial focus was very much on EU affairs and European business.

I have built my career at schools and universities where business is at the heart of everything done and business is seen as an international phenomenon. I have always had a belief that business is a profession, akin to medicine and the law, and that we should work and educate in exactly those terms.

Simon Mercado

Which three words best describe your approach to leadership and why?

As a leader, I really emphasise the importance of a unifying sense of purpose, of building a narrative around shared values, mission and vision. I have always believed in the power of a vision and a compelling narrative to go with it. There is an element of good storytelling in effective leadership but the basics rest with good strategy and execution.

I would also describe my approach as entrepreneurial. I find real excitement in breaking new ground or getting new projects or programmes launched. I also love to support people’s ability to be innovative and try to provide room for that.

Above all else, trust is integral to leadership, so it’s important for me to build a sense of mutual trust with those with whom I work. This extends from people’s trust in you to get things done the right way through to your basic sense of fairness.

What motivates you?

Impacting people’s lives positively is the biggest motivation of all. I am blessed to work in education, where one can say that the very purpose of what we do is just that.

Throughout my career I have also been motivated to promote a strong sense of international identity and fraternity in people and organisations. Much of my work as a consultant/adviser and as a business school Dean has been about promoting international identity and co-operation. I’m a firm believer in the power of international education and experience — if you marry travel with education and work experience across borders, you have the basis for something very positive.

How do you think Brexit will affect Business Education in Europe?

The real issue with Brexit is at the macro level — what it is doing to the U.K. economy and how it changes the relationship between firms and markets across Europe’s different economies. There are operational and administrative problems that surface in many sectors and such barriers typically add cost in international production and trade. For me, it’s a regressive step.

There are lots of worries at the moment including a slow growth rate and the trend line for financial services firms to relocate teams and headquarters in places other than the U.K. I also worry over a talent drain in key sectors. It already more difficult in higher education to attract the best European talent and this process of exiting the EU is creating some disruption to established links between U.K.- based schools and their continental partners.

I believe institutions such as my own have an important role to play in the future, functioning as a bridge between a re-positioned Britain and a re-configured EU.

What are some of the challenges and opportunities you’re currently facing, both as a leader and as an organisation?

Apart from managing the Brexit challenge, we are pushing hard to make our work and business model more sustainable in environmental terms and to think critically about our carbon footprint. Opportunity comes with the great ideas of staff and students to advance more sustainable business models and practices and with the Gen Z impetus to focus on social purpose and impact. We have to rise to the challenge. We do this at a time when demand for international education continues to grow at a fast pace.

What single piece of advice would you offer to aspiring leaders of universities?

It’s important to harness the talent that you have at your disposal and to invest in it. Give people the opportunity to make their contribution and see them as working with you not for you.

If you could tell your younger self one thing what would it be?

Run fast with ambition but not so fast that you don’t stop and listen. Don’t exaggerate your sense of self-importance. Your personal contribution can make a difference but if you have things set right, everything will go on perfectly well without you.

What are your hopes for the future?

I hope that we pull back from this rush towards populism and anti-liberalism and that we restore some of the faith we have had in this shared sense of European identity. This is not at the expense of a more global identity, but in support of it.

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Kate Mowbray

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Interesting people, ideas and businesses

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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