Thoughts On Business Leadership By David Rabin

Small Business Canada
Business Magazine

David Rabin

Vice President of Commercial Marketing, Lenovo PC + Smart Devices

David has nearly 20 years of marketing experience, representing a wide range of disciplines including account management, database marketing, media planning, marketing intelligence and insights, events, and more. 

David currently drives commercial marketing and enablement for Lenovo’s PC and Smart Device group.  This includes product stewardship for the Think family of products, including the legendary ThinkPad laptop.  David previously directed Lenovo’s branding, marketing, strategy and alliance partner activities across North America, including advertising, sponsorships and business to business marketing.  This role entails national advertising programs, Lenovo’s NFL sponsorship, social and online media, and more.  Most recently, David held a similar marketing role supporting both North and South America. 

Prior to that, David led marketing efforts focused on consumer and commercial channels in North America.  In that capacity, David was developing and implementing co-marketing programs with retailers, as well as providing awareness and enablement to a broad set of channel partners.  David has also managed marketing communications initiatives for Lenovo in the Americas, such as branding, demand generation and sponsorships.  In that role, he was spearheading Lenovo’s N.A. Olympic program, including Torch Relay, customer hospitality and marketing/advertising, as well as Lenovo’s NBA sponsorship. 

Additionally, David has had roles at two global advertising agencies.  At Young & Rubicam in Detroit, David managed Lincoln’s $100 million+ national advertising program, and also drove competitive intelligence for Lincoln-Mercury.  At J Walter Thompson in New York, David directed the Bermuda Department of Tourism account, and managed a piece of the database marketing program for Qwest Communications.  David got his marketing start at Enten Advertising in Washington, DC.

David holds a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from the Tulane A.B. Freeman School of Business, and lives in Raleigh, NC, with his wife and two kids. 

What is your definition of Leadership?

I believe that leadership is the ability to earn followers through means other than force. In a workplace, many times leadership is viewed as an implication of a person’s position within the company hierarchy and in that situation, people have to follow you. However, this is not the case, true leadership is earned, and you become a leader when people WANT to follow you.

What are the most important values and ethics you demonstrate as a leader?

Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to work with some great leaders who have demonstrated leadership traits I’ve come to admire – three of which I try to practice include:

  • Clarity – A leader must be clear with their directions and expectations. I use every opportunity to deliver this to the Lenovo team, from annual strategy setting and performance reviews to standing 1:1 meetings. I believe gaining clear alignment enables employees to feel comfortable to do their jobs well and deliver for the business.
  • Support – A leader must be the backbone of a team and provide the foundations on which success is built. My team knows that they have my full support in terms of their work and decisions. As a leader, I do challenge and debate with my team, but in the end there is no confusion that they will always have my support.
  • Ability to listen, then motivate – This trait becomes even more important during challenging times. Employees will follow a leader who shows a great understanding of a situation and then develops an achievable game plan based on facts and credible insights. This always starts with listening to your team, asking questions, and ensuring they are part of the solution process. From there, the leader can communicate the action plan, expectations and create a path to success with full alignment.

How do you encourage the development of your employees?

Employee development is a crucial part of business success and employee retention. As a leader you have to make employees feel valued and that they serve a purpose within the company. In fostering employee development, you keep workers engaged and provide growth. As it is such an important aspect, there are a few things leaders need to keep in mind:

  • Don’t expect to be the smartest person in the room – As a leader, it’s perfectly fine and even expected, that you won’t be the smartest person in the room. It’s a great development opportunity when an employee feels empowered to become the expert and teach their leader.
  • Set expectations – Part of a leader’s job is to set up employees for career success, whether that’s inside the company or after they leave. Employees feel valued when they know you want them to succeed and not just deliver on KPIs they track.
  • Encourage employee learning – While we’re all busy and the company pays us to deliver, the world is quickly evolving and those who can learn and adapt will always be valuable. Whether it’s

industry events, access to learning libraries, relevant magazines or podcasts, or internal lunch & learns, it’s important to build an environment for people to continue to grow and find new ways to contribute to the company.

What is your advice to Canadian business owners during the COVID-19 Pandemic?

The health and well-being of your employees and customers must be your top priority during this challenging time. During times of crisis, people will remember how you treat them. Everyone is dealing with their own situations, whether they’re feeling fearful or anxious or scrambling to manage childcare while still focusing on work. It’s important for leaders to recognize that we all bring a personal life to work, especially in times like this, and to be flexible as the situation unfolds.

Financially, this will be a difficult time for many business owners. Clarity with your employees and customers, combined with a sense of humility, will go a long way. For example, I’ve seen some local small businesses openly explain to customers their dire situation and offer gift cards with bonus offers for use down the road. It builds a sense of community, shares some emotion with customers, and creates a moment of collaboration.

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