CEO at Publicis Groupe Middle East & Turkey
Bassel Kakish assumed the role of CEO of Publicis Groupe Middle East & Turkey in April 2021, managing over 3,600 professionals across various markets and disciplines spanning technology, marketing, creative, media, and PR.
Over almost 20 years at Publicis Groupe, Kakish has held various strategic roles as part of the regional management team – acting as Chief Financial Officer, Chief Integration Officer, and co-Managing Director of Publicis Sapient in the Middle East.
Under his leadership, Publicis Groupe has integrated operations across creative, media, and Sapient. He combined various group functions, building a modular approach for clients’ business problems in a seamless manner driven by the alchemy of creativity and technology.
As CEO, Kakish is focused on strengthening and expanding the group’s offering to help clients succeed through disruptive creative strategy, analytics, and insights.
His knowledge of the intersection of technology and the creative world, coupled with his financial acumen, allows Publicis Groupe to progress on its journey to transformation, with a ‘Power of One’ vision driven by a common purpose, a powerful spirit, shared behaviors, and a relentless focus on clients.
How would you define leadership today?
Leadership is about responsibility – accepting it when needed and empowering those around you with it. The maturity of a leader is measured by our ability to surround ourselves with the best talent, trust them, guide them, and let them guide us. We must do this with respect, inspiration, and most importantly, in a safe space where we can provide feedback and listen to diverse opinions. By accepting the responsibility of leadership, you are held accountable for creating an ecosystem where the talent has the ability to excel. In today’s world, leaders tend to forget that our talent doesn’t work for us, we work to empower them. If we keep this lens on our decisions and our communication, we can build a business that attracts and maintains the best talent to propel our companies forward with success.
What’s the most important decision you have taken as a leader?
When I took on my role, my first focus was the team around me. In doing so, I was able to remove the ‘me’ in decision-making because we have trusted talents that support in vetting, challenging, and aligning on decisions. I take responsibility for the decisions, but they are made with consult.
What’s the one decision you wish you hadn’t made as a leader?
I’m always learning, from my team’s and from my own mistakes. I work on active listening and learning so that I don’t repeat mistakes.
In your opinion, who’s the most powerful leader globally today?
Master Yoda. You can never overpower THE Jedi – the force is strong with this little one. And Lord Vader for organizational skills, power, and self-sacrifice.
Who’s your role model?
My mother. The value system that I abide by in my personal and professional life is all because of what she has instilled in me. Mothers will always be the one source of inspiration and role model that is a constant in any generation.
What’s the most important quality that every leader should possess?
Humility, empathy, and respect.
What’s the one mistake that leaders most commonly make?
Lack of humility, empathy, and respect.
What’s the most critical threat that every leader in our industry should pay attention to today?
The threat of being irrelevant or obsolete. Our industry cannot only create meaningful communication and implement smart media buys; we, as a group, have long evolved past that.
What’s the most important risk you took?
Being a father at a young age. It was the best calculated risk that made me the man, father, and leader I am today.
What resources would you recommend to someone looking to become a better leader?
Lean on everyone who gives you positive energy and constructive feedback. These are the lessons that you can take forward to become a leader of your community and society.
What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow as a leader?
I learn every day, from new young hires, my kids, colleagues, partners, competitors – the inspiration and growth are endless. Always educate yourself by learning something new and have the space and time to read or watch material that has nothing to do with your line of work.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve ever received?
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve ever given?
From Yoda: “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” Live fearlessly. Lord Vader [also] said to be careful not to choke on your aspirations.
You can see the full ranking and methodology here.