Ravi Sunnak on Advocacy and Mentoring

April 1, 2019

Ravi Sunnak Highlights

Current job title: Executive Vice President, Sustainable Development Goals, Porter Novelli

Previous executive roles: Executive Vice President, Corporate & Cause, Havas PR U.S.; Managing Director, Corporate, Grayling

Other leadership positions: Member, Social Innovation Summit Leadership Council


What tenets have you followed to become a successful leader?

Leadership styles, types of employees and management techniques have all changed considerably during the 17-plus years I have been in communications. However, I have always remained committed to:
Having a clear vision of what we want to achieve personally and professionally. Whether that’s building a division from scratch or creating a conversation around climate change, you need to be clear about what you want to achieve.

  • Being open-minded to collaborate internally and with external partners, because the best ideas may come from where you least expect.
  • Demonstrating a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion. The latter is now more important than ever, as growing data and research suggest diverse workforces result in more innovative and successful workplaces.


What has been your biggest leadership faux pas? 

The Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw once said, “The United States and Great Britain are two countries separated by a common language,” and the same is true when it comes to corporate cultures on both sides of the Atlantic.

I had global experience and had worked with U.S. clients in the U.K. before I landed full time in the United States, but it still took me a while to adjust to cultural norms here. This period of adjustment led to some “lost in translation” moments for me — from misinterpreting certain words to misunderstanding certain national holidays. However, in all instances the teams I worked with were very forgiving and considered those moments part of my learning experience.


When did you first realize you weren’t just a practitioner or manager, but a leader?

There hasn’t been one specific moment. As your career advances, your roles, responsibilities and what is expected of you tend to shift toward leadership opportunities. Leadership evolves from making the most of career-defining moments that arise, going for them, and bringing people along with you on the journey.

The best leaders are always evolving, listening and learning from their mentors, peers and team members. Doing so ensures you stay connected to the work and up-to-date on trends and insights so you will always improve as a communications professional.


How can the communications profession cultivate leaders?

As today’s leaders, we have to be the best advocates and mentors we can be for the next generation of leaders. And we need to embrace diversity and inclusion to do that. It’s our job to bring as many diverse sets of people to the table as quickly as possible, and call out other leaders who are not doing the same. Training is the key to this.


How does your cause and sustainability work inform your leadership style?

Working within the purpose-and-social-impact space means that you are always developing and executing programs and campaigns around issues that have opportunities to shift behavior or effect change, over and above how traditional communications campaigns might.

Such work is incredibly empowering for a leader. I do all I can to ensure my team understands the wider impact their work is having on society. You need to have personal passion, which has come across in all the campaigns I have led across the social-good space.

Ken Jacobs

Ken Jacobs is principal of Jacobs Consulting & Executive Coaching. Visit his website (www.jacobscomm.com) and contact him by email (ken@jacobscomm.com) or Twitter (@KensViews).


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