Name: Stephen Byrne
Stephen Byrne is the co-founder and strategy director at DIFFUSION, a strategic brand agency, where he works across a wide variety of corporations, organisations, businesses and startups.
Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!
I hope Stephen's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
The importance of organisations understanding the need for strategy based brand and marketing. It's foundational but many businesses don't understand it.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I've been in leadership roles since my late 20s, when I was encouraged by a senior marketer to take on increasing responsibility. I was leading a large multidisciplinary marketing team when the internet took off and I went over to London and found a specific niche in digital just as it came into its own, worked agency side as a strategy director and ended up working for the Duke of Westminster's investment company advising on digital investments in startups as well as large scale digital infrastructure projects.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
My work days are very fluid and varied. I've worked from home for a long time, so preparing an overnight brand research presentation for a client in New York and then getting on a plane to deliver it a day or two later isn't out of the ordinary.
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
Make sure management and your team is aligned with your vision and it's well communicated and signed off.
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?
David Aaker is one of the founders of modern brand strategy and I had the pleasure to share a table with him at conference in Las Vegas. I think his book Brand Leadership: The Next Level of the Brand Revolution is probably my go to text on brand strategy and how to lead an organisation through the process.
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
Stay close to foundational principles. You can't build a brand without them..
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
I was once pitching to a London head hunting firm and had been introduced by their legal counsel. He said what I had to say might be a little scary (they were pretty conservative) and intimidating. Of course, I won them over so much so they even tried to headhunt me for a senior leadership role with a media group in Scotland.