CEO at Zenith Middle East
Firas El Zein assumed the role of CEO of Zenith Middle East in January 2011, managing over 150 professionals across various markets. With over almost 20 years at Publicis Groupe and more than 25 years in the regional media industry, he brings vast experience to his role on the regional management team.
Under his leadership, Zenith has evolved into the ROI+ agency, focused on delivering tangible business growth for clients such as Nestle, BMW, Bel, Ooredoo, Saudia, Al Ula, Red Bull, Disney, and Essity, integrating best in class media solutions backed by the full capabilities of Publicis Groupe. Most recently, Zenith was recognized as Media Agency of the Year at Dubai Lynx 2022, adding to their robust awards and recognition.
As CEO, El Zein is focused on strengthening and expanding Zenith’s offering to help clients’ growth. Across the MENA markets, he and his leadership team ensure that audience and business insights lead integrated communication solutions to maximize ROI in a fast-moving marketplace. He has restructured operations and successfully driven more than ten times growth in the last ten years, including during the financial and pandemic crisis periods, outperforming the market and increasing profitability for the group.
How would you define leadership today?
Leadership is not about one person; it is about the team.
What’s the most important decision you have taken as a leader?
It’s one I make every day – to put our people first. We are in a people business and each person makes up the foundation of what we do every day. As leaders, we invest in the technology and infrastructure to create a dynamic ecosystem for our people to thrive in; so, the most important thing to consider is how my decisions positively enable our team to add value to our clients’ business.
What’s the one decision you wish you hadn’t made as a leader?
I don’t live with regrets. Good and bad decisions, I learn from each.
In your opinion, who’s the most powerful leader globally today?
There isn’t one person. We live and work in global communities built around a driving purpose; so, it is the community that is powerful. When I look around at the various industries that are impacting the world today, I can see that it is the power of their talent, uniting intelligence from all backgrounds, that creates a collective impact to drive society forward.
Who’s your role model?
Sheikh Mohamad bin Rashid. Just look around you at what Dubai has become and where it’s focusing its efforts to lead tomorrow. Growing up here, the vision of this country has been a source of inspiration for most of my life.
What’s the most important quality that every leader should possess?
Empathy. Without it, we don’t have the right to lead others.
What’s the one mistake that leaders most commonly make?
Lack of empathy and respect.
What’s the most critical threat that every leader in our industry should pay attention to today?
Acting before fully considering the problem. There is never one side to a story or one solution to a problem. As the world speeds up through connectivity and communication runs across platforms, it’s critical for leaders to take a moment and consider all sides and the potential implications of the decisions they make.
What’s the most important risk you took?
I always say what I think, even when it may not be the popular voice. I can only expect honesty and trust from my colleagues if I give them the same.
What resources would you recommend to someone looking to become a better leader?
Your best resource is your team. As leaders, it’s our job to listen and provide the focus to create solutions that enable our teams and clients to learn and grow.
What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow as a leader?
I continue to learn, read, and have conversations. We’re a communication company; as a leader, I try to ensure that I am always leaning into the future by connecting with people. We cannot succeed if we think in silos.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve ever received?
Trust your team.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve ever given?
Lead by example. You cannot lead from above; you must lead by standing shoulder to shoulder with your team.
You can see the full ranking and methodology here.