Elda Choucair: Don’t give up

Elda Choucair, CEO of Omnicom Media Group (MENA) speaks to Campaign Middle East's Sonia Majumder about her career journey

Campaign Middle East kicked off the month with a podcast interview with Elda Choucair, CEO of Omnicom Media Group MENA to discuss her career journey.

From helping others become better leaders to pushing personal boundaries through climbing mount Kilimanjaro, Elda Choucair tells us what’s helped her succeed and what advice would she give to the next generation of leaders. 

What’s your leadership style and how do you lead others? 

I think you evolve as a leader, you realise it’s absolutely wrong to have one style or way of doing things.

Whether it’s the organisation, the team, the circumstances, or the conditions, they demand a leader to be so many things and have different approaches to different problems. 

When you have a style, then you become rigid. Nonetheless, there are principles that guide you as a leader.

These principles for me are when you decide as an organisation that we put people first to empower them. It holds people accountable and responsible, giving them the authority. 

I’m both near and far depending on the situation, depending on the client, depending on the team, on the circumstances. I think that gives my team comfort and the confidence that if they need me I’ll be there, but if they don’t need me, then they’re on their own.

That is the flexibility that matters at the end because you got to have the elasticity to be the kind of leader who either leads from the front or back if it’s needed,

What drives you every day? 

I just love what I do. But it’s also misleading because doing something you love is not enough.

I think what guarantees success is following your dream, doing what you love, and also finding what you excel at.  

It’s aligning who you are, your principles, but also your skill set, your abilities, the experiences you have accumulated, the learnings, and what you studied, all of these things are factors that should guide you in terms of what you want.

When you look back, what challenge stands out? 

There are so many mistakes, so many challenges, so many setbacks. When you have an 18-year record, the mistakes are forgotten and the setbacks are buried somewhere and you don’t remember them anymore.

There are of course many mistakes you make. It could be people you’re working with who you’re not aligned with, or it could be the business that you pitch that we lose, or could be a dissatisfied client and you don’t know what to do, working with a team and the team is not doing well or some people are making mistakes and you need to deal with them.

You deal with situations in the wrong way, you say the wrong things, and you pick the wrong time. So many things that can go wrong.  I think some of these and some of these incidents you can correct and some of them have to play their course. 

The best advice is to let time be on your side. Time heals everything. Sometimes we have to be patient with ourselves and a bit self-forgiving and sometimes we have to just own up to our mistakes or challenges and that helps too.

I think where I am today and what I am today is a gross of all of these things the good, the bad, and the ugly. 

What’s helped you become so successful?

It’s such a relative concept. What is success? Some people’s success is raising their kids and seeing their kids grow to become their dream kids.

Good people are successful in their own lives and in their ways. I’ve always been true to myself that helped me a lot. I don’t think of myself as successful. I don’t think this is something that you arrive at. You become successful because any day you can.

It’s a title. It’s what you call it. It’s a rank. You could lose that rank any day. You can just make a big mistake again.

It’s not about being scared of mistakes, but it’s about having the humility of what is success. I think with time and even our perspective of what we think is success to us changes. Priorities change. 

There’s always a way forward. So I never let anything stand in my way. No naysayers, no barriers, no conditions. Just don’t give up. 

What advice would you give to the next generation of leaders? Particularly the youth. 

When you see how you work with other people, are you able to inspire them? Are you coaching them? Are you benefiting them in one way or another? And you discovered that there are aspects of leadership that you find in yourself. Then what you do is you do more of those. 

You do more of the things that help others because leadership is not about me being the boss. Leadership is about me helping others succeed and helping others become better leaders. 

That’s really what a good leader is. A good leader is not the smartest person in the room. It’s the person who would help others who’ve got it, to be in the spotlight. To give them the opportunity to bring out that talent.