Successful leadership never comes easily. Being able to drive a team forward and produce outstanding results is difficult enough in itself. To be able to do this consistently, and to continue to push forward and deliver results year on year is a quality that all leaders want to have, but it’s a quality that not every leader possesses.

Atilla Cansun, Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Committee Member of Merck Consumer Health Company, is one leader who can genuinely claim to possess the qualities needed to lead teams successfully. He is responsible for leading a global brand portfolio featuring 9 strategic brands in 6 different categories – a portfolio just short of 1 billion Euros.

Atilla Cansun joined us in our latest podcast where he shared his views on leadership, the challenges that teams are currently facing, and one of the biggest challenges of all – how to attract and retain the best talent, from Millennials to Directors.

Atilla says, “I am fully convinced and wholeheartedly dedicated in making a difference by applying emotional intelligence.” Indeed, emotion is a recurring theme in what Atilla has to say and what makes Merck Consumer Health a little bit different from most companies.

On the subject of leadership, Atilla is adamant that the key determiner that makes all the difference is the application of emotional intelligence. He believes that showing emotional intelligence is needed for leaders to adapt to the different teams they lead, and to recognise the most appropriate leadership style for a particular team, time or situation.

Atilla also advocates moulding leadership style to ‘the spirit that is needed in that team’. Again, possessing the necessary emotion and feelings to meet the challenges ahead for a team are forefront in Atilla’s mind. At times this might call for an assertive approach, by pushing and motivating team members. Other times, a more caring and supportive strategy and a ‘putting your arms around the team’ approach is required – either way it is the ability of a leader to tune into the team’s emotions that is vital.

The emphasis on looking at things in a slightly different way continues when Atilla explains his thoughts about how to recruit and retain talent. He speaks of the need to look beyond academic grades, or how successful candidates might have been in their internships. Instead, he believes that companies should be looking for ‘fingerspitzengefühl’ – the German term for a person’s ability to be able to connect with a situation and people, to look between the lines and be intuitive and astute enough to, as Atilla puts it, ‘smell the air a little bit in the room’.

Recognising the ability of a candidate to pick up and convey emotions at the recruitment stage is seen as being vitally important to Merck Consumer Health. It is also seen as being crucial in terms of a capability building perspective. Merck Consumer Health also places a strong emphasis on recruiting millennials to the company and taking on many junior employees. Atilla observes that many millennials – especially the very best talent – are looking beyond salaries and are more concerned with a company’s ‘higher order purpose’. 

For Merck Consumer Health the purpose is ‘We One Hundred’. This is the dream and a vision that one day people will have the right and the necessary support to be able to live for 100 years. The ideal that the older generation will be able to be integrated to become more productive and make a contribution to the younger in society extends to Merck’s own employees, with the same focus on emotional intelligence and sensitivity.

To hear more from Atilla on the Career Success Podcast, tune in here.

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