Indielab CEO Victoria Powell on the commercial imperative for inclusive leadership

"Inclusive leadership should be something to which everyone in charge of a business aspires."

Most people who have worked in production, me included, have met those creative mavericks, brimming with ideas and popular with commissioners, who perhaps should not have ever been left in charge of running a company, even if it was their own name above the door. They may not have cared, for example, if the office environment was known to be tough or if they themselves were deemed ‘difficult’ to work with: in fact, they probably even enjoyed wearing the ‘difficult’ descriptor as a badge of honour.

None of this was deemed to matter when commercial success and reputation were driven solely by creative success. But times have changed, and for the better.

Today, as well as needing to continually navigate a changing media landscape – both in the UK and internationally – to succeed and grow, indie leaders need to understand and embrace the changing cultural landscape and recognise that failure to do so will invariably hit them where it hurts, on the bottom line. We’ve all read stories about companies with toxic workplaces losing commissions, staff, and their once good reputations. And for some, there’s no bouncing back.

Expectations and standards are now so high around the commercial and creative leadership in our sector, that even leaders of indie start-ups need to be thinking about how they take a company forward and build a healthy culture from day one – as well as a healthy slate. For leaders of mid-stage businesses not able to start with a clean sheet, the challenge to do this can be even greater, and may seem daunting. But it is totally achievable if business principals buy into and commit to inclusive leadership.

This isn’t about ticking boxes to be seen to be doing the right thing, nor is it the latest ‘woke’ phrase to be bandied about. Inclusive leadership should be something to which everyone in charge of a business aspires. It’s about putting your own biases aside and actively seeking different perspectives to develop a well-rounded, successful, contemporary production business, one that is recognised in the industry as a great place to work, a great company to partner with and maybe even an excellent business in which to invest.

At Indielab, our Accelerator programmes have been very commercially focused and large numbers of our participants have been successful in significantly growing their businesses, both in the UK and overseas, over the past six years. But now, more than ever before, we know that inclusive leaders and healthy cultures are as vital building blocks on the growth trajectory as owning and maximising IP. So, we have expanded our 2022 Accelerator programme to include sessions on helping indie principals create a positive and distinct culture while supporting them in becoming the best leader they can possibly be.

We will be exploring what inclusive leadership looks like today and how to make an authentic commitment to diversity. We’ll consider the importance of respect, fairness, collaboration, and empowerment. As a bespoke programme, we’ll help participants define their own positive leadership style and a culture that’s right for their business – whatever its current size and stage. And we’ll help them to deliver this culture, working with the strengths and skills of the people in their team, and give advice on how it can be sustained as they grow.

The UK indie sector has been the envy of the world for 20 years and has some remarkable people leading stellar businesses. By embracing inclusive leadership and healthy cultures alongside sharp commercial and creative skills, UK indies will help future-proof themselves, evolve the industry and uphold our reputation on the global stage.

The earlybird deadline for Indielab’s 2022 TV Accelerator is 28th February. Final deadline for applications is 31st March. Apply here:

This piece was first published by Broadcast on 22nd February 2022.