Marketing Research and Insight Excellence Awards finalist Dana DiGregorio, global managing director, MESH Experience

Editor's note: Dana DiGregorio, MESH Experience, was selected as a finalist of the 2022 Fearless Leader Award which is a category in the Marketing Research and Insight Excellence Awards. To find out more about the awards click here.

What makes a good leader?

Great leadership means generating great leaders. Giving a team the room to lead themselves, at all levels, is where you separate leadership from management. Allowing mistakes, holding space for growth and mentorship and inspiring others to be creative and autonomous versus building a factory set team based on previous rules, processes and protocol is key. Great leaders lavish in celebrating diversity in all ways and aren’t afraid to be proven wrong or shown a better way. I think often we defer to the old principles of business growth and team building when we think of leadership. And it always comes from the perspective of “I.” “I can drive culture among my team by doing this,” or “I can create processes and procedures that will explain the best practices for that.” All of those things are arguably critical when thinking of building a great business and roles, but they’re not necessarily going to build great leaders.

Leadership never starts with “I,” because it’s never about “I.”  When “I” add my ideas to a meeting unprovoked, I’ve stifled my team's creativity and opportunity for growth. Great leaders let go of the “I” and focus on “you.” They listen more than they talk. They try their hardest never to interrupt. They acknowledge the little things and celebrate their team. Great leaders create great leaders who will do the same because they have had the opportunity to show up authentically, to be heard and to be valued in their workplace. 

How do you see research and insights changing in the next five years?

I think insights and research is constantly changing and evolving, as new tech and old tech merge to bring better and more accurate measurement and insight to our clients, stakeholders and industry. 

My hunch is that as there continues to be shifts in the way businesses treat the value of marketing, advertising and CX, specifically within their own organizations, researchers will need to branch out of our traditional research silos and job titles and really start to become experts in these areas as well. My hope is that the insights area doesn’t just have a seat at the executive table, but actually, the executive stakeholders have a seat at [the insights] table.

What advice do you give to someone entering the industry?

Diversify learning and experience, don’t be too fixated on short- or long- term goals that cloud your ability to be open to new goals and ideas and find a mentor. Always strive to go beyond your job duties when you can because having diversification in terms of your skill set and experience will take you a long way. If you find yourself setting a goal of getting that next promotion or becoming CEO – that is amazing! But just make sure the goal doesn’t define you, and your identity is more than just the “next thing.” If you are too focused on what you think you want to do, you might lose out on an amazing opportunity in front of your face.  

Finally, there are so many amazing mentors available in this industry through great programs and networks like Women in Research, for example. Take advantage and find a mentor. This is really true for anyone entering the industry and for anyone who has been in the industry for years! I am grateful to have mentors and I lean on them often. It’s also important to diversify your mentors too and I always recommend you find a mentor outside of your company when you can. If you’re heading into the agency side of the business, get an agency mentor AND a client mentor, and vice versa. Mentorship is underutilized and often the secret to continued success.