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#8: Authentic Leadership With Rocky Novak

July 1, 2020

How To be an Authentic Leader with Rocky Novak, CEO of Fallon, and Dr. Eric Bean


During this episode of the Coaching Through Stories podcast, host Eric Bean speaks with Rocky Novak, CEO of Fallon, a fully-integrated creative, media and production agency, headquartered in Minneapolis. Rocky’s perspective on leadership is refreshing because he delicately strikes a balance between being focused on results while emphasizing relationships and vulnerability. He leads from a place of authenticity and does it with humility. Rocky discusses how he has risen in the company by staying focused solely on the company’s needs.  His authenticity is palpable throughout the conversation.
This episode was recorded prior to COVID-19.

Three Key Points:

  1. When you are present, you can be more productive.
  2. Learn to protect periods of high-quality focus.
  3. Evaluate your priorities. Spend your time and energy on what really matters to you.

Episode Highlights:

  • Rocky describes Fallon’s history as a successful agency in flyover territory.
  • If we do work we’re proud of, a lot of the noise starts to sort itself out.
  • Rocky took on the role of CEO about a year ago. He describes reconciling the human element of his job with business decisions.
  • In his view, the spotlights that are good are not where the leaders should be standing.
  • Making the distinction between leadership and humanity feels inauthentic to him.
  • When you come from the inside of an organization, suddenly coming up with new leadership frameworks can feel false.
  • He’s been an effective leader because he’s been authentic. He doesn’t pull punches but there’s also a personal relationship.
  • He hires people for the weirdo side of them. He models being human himself. He wants people to approach problems as humans.
  • He tries to be human whenever possible. Empathy and humanity work regardless of the situation you are in.
  • Rocky talks about the role of common sense in leadership.
  • He always tries to approach his day with genuine enthusiasm, genuine intent, genuinely trying to do the right thing for the business and the clients.
  • He started in media strategy and planning. Then he was moved where he led the digital and social practice. After that, he was a managing director.
  • Rocky found success by recognizing needs for the agency and trying to meet those needs.
  • He wants to build a place that engenders that kind of growth in others.
  • There’s a generation that has been focused on individual success. But now Rocky sees some movement toward people growing tired of that and wanting to be part of something larger.
  • One of the Fallon values is family as a business model.
  • Advertising has been in a liminal space for about twenty years with the major disruption of the internet.
  • He needs employees to love the work. If you’re not genuinely excited to do the work every day, advertising is a tough job to do.
  • When people are having fun and enjoy their work, you can feel that in the end product.
  • Have great people that do great work and control what you can.
  • The success of taking a familial approach to company culture may depend on the industry.
  • He can’t ask people to be vulnerable without insisting on a familial approach.
  • Rocky describes working with a young female copywriter on work for a bourbon brand.
  • You can push for vulnerability and show people that there’s something in them that will make the organization better.
  • Rocky recommends resources for further study.

Resources Mentioned:

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