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7 Questions on Leadership with Addison Tao

Name: Addison Tao

Title: Head of Talent Acquisition, APMEA

Organisation: Nielsen

With over 20 years of expertise in talent acquisition, culture, and people management, I lead the recruitment function for Nielsen across Asia Pacific, Middle East, and Africa.

As a strategic thought leader and a versatile people leader, I have successfully driven large-scale transformations that exceed goals while ensuring stakeholder engagement and high client satisfaction. I have a proven track record of success in executive-level leadership, managing and motivating diverse teams to achieve exceptional results effectively. I have a passion for driving global and regional talent acquisition strategies that deliver game-changing results for Nielsen and its clients.

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope Addison's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

As a Talent Acquisition leader, one of the most challenging aspects I have encountered is managing talent acquisition on a regional scale. Leading the recruitment efforts for Nielsen in the Asia Pacific, Middle East, and Africa region, I faced the complexity of aligning diverse teams and meeting the recruitment needs of different markets. Most recently my team was tasked to support part of our business in Europe, too. This required a deep understanding of cultural nuances, market dynamics, and strategic partnerships with business leaders and HR counterparts.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

My leadership journey began with my curiosity about HR as I always described my journey in HR as a “happy accident”. Over the years, I gained experience and honed my skills through various HR roles in various companies in various industries such as Nielsen, Woolworths Group, Jebsen Industrial, and FedEx Express. These experiences allowed me to develop a comprehensive understanding of HR strategies, people management, and organizational dynamics, ultimately leading to leadership positions where I could make a meaningful impact. My most recent “detour” focused on Talent Acquisition at Nielsen was a great opportunity to self-actualize my strength finder where I found my biggest passion is still to “find the match”!

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

My workdays are structured to accommodate different time zones. Mornings begin early for collaborating with the America team, while afternoons are dedicated to APMEA and Europe. Virtual communication and digital tools play a crucial role in my day-to-day. However, when possible, I will make sure to take a short walk without any digital device to clean my mind.

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

A recent leadership lesson that resonated with me is the importance of adaptability and flexibility. In today's rapidly changing business landscape, leaders must be open to new ideas, embrace change, and continuously adapt their strategies to stay ahead. I was reminded that successful leadership requires not only a clear vision but also the ability to pivot when necessary, empowering the team to navigate challenges and seize opportunities.

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

One book that had a profound impact on my leadership before I even became a formal leader is "Monday Morning Mentoring" by David Cottrell - a former FedEx leader. This book provides practical and actionable advice for leaders to develop skills and inspire their teams. It is written in the form of a story, where a young professional seeks guidance from an experienced mentor.

The book emphasizes the importance of continuous learning, self-reflection, and the power of relationships. It taught me that as a leader, investing time in mentorship and being a mentor to others can greatly enhance personal and professional growth. Through the protagonist's journey, I learned valuable lessons about effective communication, setting goals, and building a positive work culture.

"Monday Morning Mentoring" had a significant impact on my leadership style by reminding me of the importance of being a lifelong learner, seeking guidance from others, and sharing knowledge with those around me. It reinforced the idea that leadership is not just about personal success, but also about empowering and uplifting others to reach their full potential. By incorporating the principles from this book into my leadership approach, I have been able to foster a culture of mentorship within my teams, where individuals feel supported, inspired, and encouraged to grow.

The book's practical insights and actionable advice have not only benefited my own development as a leader but have also positively influenced the growth and success of the individuals I've had the privilege to lead. I highly recommend "Monday Morning Mentoring" to young leaders who are seeking guidance and inspiration on their leadership journey. It provides valuable insights and practical strategies that can be implemented immediately, making a positive impact in both personal and professional aspects of leadership.

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

My advice to a young leader would be to prioritize continuous learning and personal growth. Embrace every opportunity to expand your knowledge, seek out mentorship, and actively seek feedback. Be curious, stay open-minded, and remain adaptable in the face of challenges. Remember that leadership is a journey, and by investing in your own development, you will be better equipped to inspire and empower others.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

One recent meaningful story that stands out is when I was entrusted with the responsibility to continue the establishment of Nielsen's Asia Pacific Recruitment Center (NRC) in Malaysia as a maternity leave cover. This opportunity presented both challenges and opportunities for growth.

Being in a new country, I embraced the chance to continue building the NRC from the ground up, ensuring a smooth transition and continuity in talent acquisition operations. My focus was not only on meeting the recruitment needs of the region but also on creating a cohesive and motivated team.

With determination and a supportive team, we successfully set up the NRC and streamlined recruitment processes, enabling us to efficiently serve the Asia Pacific region. Despite the temporary nature of the assignment, I strived to leave a lasting impact by instilling a culture of collaboration, learning, and innovation within the team.

This experience not only broadened my horizons but also reinforced the importance of adaptability and resilience as a leader. Working in a diverse environment and overcoming cultural differences further enriched my leadership capabilities. This story remains close to my heart, as it reflects the essence of leadership - embracing new challenges, nurturing talent, and leaving a positive legacy, even in temporary roles.

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