The CEO & Founder of M&C Saatchi Malaysia, Datin Sri Sharifah Menyalara Hussein (Lara, as she known in the industry), has become the first Malaysian woman ever to win an award at the prestigious Women Leading Change Awards (WLCA).
The WLCA is organised annually by Campaign Asia magazine. The Awards aim to champion female change makers, leaders, achievers and rising stars in the media, advertising and marketing industry.
It also recognises those who have shown outstanding leadership and fostered groundbreaking innovation.
The awards are open to regional entries from all over Asia-Pacific, and attract a high calibre of entries, as testified to by a diverse international field of Finalists in 2019.
In the awards ceremony held in Singapore on 4 June 2019, it was revealed that Lara had won the Business Leader of the Year Award. In addition, she was also a Finalist in two other categories – CEO of the Year and Vision Leader of the Year. No other Malaysian woman was a Finalist at the WLCA 2019.
In an instant reaction to the win, Lara stated that it was a testament to the growing number of female entrepreneurs and female corporate leaders making a lasting mark in all spheres of Malaysian life. She was also quick to say that the award was as much a recognition of the agency’s teamwork as it was a personal milestone.
“It is immensely humbling to be the first-ever Malaysian honoured at the Women Leading Change Awards. I see this as a recognition not for myself, but for the growing voice that women, and Malaysian women in particular, have earned in shaping the destiny of the organisations that we work for.”
“We have always endeavoured to make M&C Saatchi Malaysia a beacon of diversity, where gender is always secondary to talent. In fact, 6 of the 9 key senior management positions in the company are held by women.
“I sincerely thank all the 120 staff of our agency who made 2018 a banner year for us. They truly worked as a team to lift the agency to greater heights. To me, they too are indirectly the “Business Leaders” that this award honours.”
As noted in the WLCA entry, the Business Leader of the Year Award was a strong testament to M&C Saatchi’s outstanding performance in the 12-month period (2018) on which the award was based.
The agency added 13 new clients in 2018, and also recorded a 100% client retention rate during that year. Perhaps most impressively, in the annual client satisfaction survey, 100% of M&C Saatchi Malaysia’s clients would recommend M&C Saatchi to their peers.
In addition, the agency won recognition in the recent A&M Agency of the Year 2019 awards, in which M&C Saatchi Malaysia won the Gold Award for Brand Consultancy of the Year, plus two Silver Awards for Digital Agency of the Year and Social Media Agency of the Year. It also bagged a Bronze Award for Creative Agency of the Year.
Having grown M&C Saatchi Malaysia from a tiny start-up with seven people into a 120-strong organisation within just ten years, Lara is able to reflect upon the traits required of a successful female leader.
“I don’t think there is a specific leadership style that can be called “female”. Some of these principles are just about being a good leader, mentor and friend.
“To lead well, you need to set expectations that are both clear and well understood. To mentor well, always be encouraging and motivating. Keep your people on their toes, yet nurture their strengths.
And finally, to be a good friend to your staff, partners and even clients, just apply the universal values that we should bring to every relationship in our lives – respect, compassion and caring.
It is by applying these timeless human values to our daily and working lives that leaders – both female and male – can continue to grow our organisations, and to empower our people.”
Global advertising legend Lord Maurice Saatchi, the co-founder of both Saatchi & Saatchi and subsequently M&C Saatchi, commented as follows:
“How do you get an amazing track record like Lara Hussein in business, politics and public service?
“By leading change. Lara did it by expressing Saatchi values and then making them come true. (She) proves that nothing is impossible; that an individual acting alone, or almost single-handed, can make what seems highly improbable in fact happen. Lara is not just the heroine of M&C Saatchi’s proud history. She is the role model for its future generation.”
“As pleasing as this win is for M&C Saatchi Malaysia, and on a personal level, I hope its ultimate value lies in providing inspiration for the next generation of Malaysian women”, added Lara. “The very name – Women Leading Change Awards – is a great reminder that female leaders are indeed driving change across the whole of Asia-Pacific. I look forward to seeing more winners from Malaysia in years to come.”