With a global experience of helping organizations and people to transform and scale in response to change, Emma Scales, the Co-MD of APAC region at Publicis Sapient, is helping the client companies by leveraging the purpose and focus to amplify impact with the customers. Emma is a business leader in Asia who has built her career living and working across North America, Europe, and APAC as a consultant, coach, and strategist. Her journey at Publicis Sapient started in London in 2007. She took a leap from HR to Co-MD APAC when CEO Nigel Vaz said he had “an out-there idea.”
As Emma has worked with Publicis Sapient for 12 years, she had the opportunity to coach executives in MD roles for over 10 years. This span of time benefited her with knowledge about the role and responsibilities of leaders in many capabilities and cultures. Emma used her experience to craft a plan and start focusing on driving purpose and meaning. Throughout the years, she has held many roles in the company and now is the Co-Managing Director for APAC region. Her strengths in executive coaching, organizational development, and complex facilitation to create purpose have helped organizations to thrive.
The Digital Transformation Hub
Publicis Sapient turned out to be the platform through which Emma could work on her strengths and help the organizations through the transformation process. Emma proudly states, “At Publicis Sapient, we help unlock value through a startup mindset and modern methods, fusing strategy, consulting and customer experience with agile engineering and problem-solving creativity.”
Publicis Sapient is a digital business transformation partner of choice and a digital pioneer. The company was started with two founders who wanted to have a significant impact on the world. They observed that companies are facing challenges due to unprecedented disruption. The company thus has spent nearly three decades utilizing the disruptive power of technology and ingenuity to assist clients’ businesses in the stage of transformation. The team of Publicis has experience in spanning technology, data sciences, consulting and customer obsession, which is combined with the company culture of curiosity and relentlessness. This enables the company to accelerate the clients’ businesses by designing the products and services that serve true value to them.
Fulfilling the Entrepreneurial Goal
Emma describing her journey at Publicis Sapient said, “My first year has delivered on the frame-breaking opportunity it promised. Every day there is a chance to have meaningful conversations that can change lives — clients’, team members’, organizations’ and my own. I never underestimate the power of listening and responding to someone in need.”
As the MD, it is Emma’s responsibility to create the conditions and environment where each person’s potential can thrive and change the world. Apart from taking care of the employee performances, she is responsible for driving growth in the region through global connections, Publicis Groupe collaboration, and external partnerships. Emma is working with the country leaders to craft strategy, remove roadblocks and act as a coach and sounding board for clients, people and team-related ambitions and challenges. Her entrepreneurial goal is to make the most of this incredible role and to enable our Asian Pacific teams to deliver transformative work to their clients.
Inspirations Crafting the Leadership Shadow
A leader has to meet with challenges throughout his journey, and it’s the inspiration that helps guide one through it. Emma also finds herself returning to Khalil Gibran’s “The Prophet” in her milestone moments. She considers Khalil as one of her idols due to his simple yet profound truths. For many years, Emma has coached the executives on their shadow, which has affected her leadership style and crafted her for the role. Everyone has a little voice in their head that guides us through the actions and choices.
In becoming a business leader, Emma noticed that this ‘coach in her head’ is a very strong voice. As a leader, there must be an equal balance between humility and assertiveness. However, it is tricky for any leader to maintain that balance. Emma says “Sometimes it’s difficult to express her voice in the room”. Yet, she finds a way to convey herself. She adds, “I have learned that my shadow is cast regardless, with or without a voice. In fact, the absence of a voice casts the greatest shadow of all. So I am committed to sharing openly, humbly and passionately as frequently as possible in order to cast the leadership shadow that is meaningful and authentic to me.”
Team Bringing Unique Perspective to the Table
Over the years, Emma has led various global, regional and country-level teams in change initiatives that affect over 10,000 people and has partnered with other leaders to pivot their businesses towards global strategy while responding to local market conditions. “Leading teams to create an impact on clients, their customers and the world around them inspires me,” says Emma. She is extremely proud of her Publicis Sapient team as she states that every individual is incredibly talented and brings a unique perspective to the table. These individuals thrive in ambiguity, flourish with autonomy, have courage in their conviction and truly collaborate.
Emma encourages the staff to succeed in professional as well as personal ambitions. The team equally participates in the company discussions and a crucial part of the journey. The core values of the company give individuals the opportunity to do inspiring and challenging work. Emma believes that the company’s culture is one of the primary reasons for the long tenure people cite as the reason for staying at Publicis Sapient. Diversity, mutual respect, and transparency are highly valued. Emma proudly asserts, “We have made progress in achieving gender pay parity, greater gender balance in our headcount and providing Unconscious Bias training. I am proud that our Leadership team at the Asia Pacific is gender-balanced at 50/50.”
Message for the Aspiring Leaders
After having switched from the role of HR to MD, Emma often found herself as the only woman in the daily conversations. She did experience a big change in the dynamic of power over, versus power with. “I intend to lead with, not over. Yet the impact of that leadership style has the unintended consequence of increasing the “power over” behavior in the room. I was challenged to find an authentic way of leading that would create the environment of “power with,” said Emma. The change was frustrating and eye-opening, but her experience helped her to lead in an authentic way and have a unique voice.
Change can be scary at first, but Emma advises aspiring leaders to never refuse any opportunity. “Reach for courage, perspective, and confidence and take that opportunity with both hands,” concluded Emma.