65: Leaders With Heart Know They Must Give To Get And Grow


In this episode, Heather speaks with Ian Sohn, President of the Chicago office of Wunderman, a creative tech company. Ian talks about his leadership style, his philosophy on growing talents, and a rough spot he found himself in as a leader.

Heather discovered Ian through an article written about him in the New York Post, where they highlighted a recent open letter he wrote about his expectations for employees checking in after work hours. You’ll want to listen in on his perspective after you read the article. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Leaders must transfer what they know to those around them.
  • Be intentional about the words that you use to express emotion.
  • Always consider the intention of someone’s actions before holding it against them.
  • Think of mistakes as teachable moments.
  • If leaders do the hard work to build trust through expressing love then no need for foreplay when go to deliver feedback.
  • Consider the employee lifecycle when coaching them.
  • Trust and then hold accountable.
  • Showing some vulnerability regarding mistakes is very important to build trust.
  • Take care of yourself first.
  • Never do a bad imitation of someone else, be you!

This is a must episode!

Ian Sohn’s Full BIO

Ian Sohn is the President of Wunderman Thompson Central Region, which includes Chicago, Austin, Memphis and Minneapolis.

Most recently, Ian was the Managing Director of SapientRazorfish Chicago where he looked after the business, human and cultural health of the office. He was also the architect and business lead for a world-class portfolio of brands, including CPG, insurance, retail, fashion, pharma and healthcare.

He is proud of his new business track-record; his passion for selling innovative ideas and solutions; the trust his clients put in him; and the joy he takes in finding and developing talent.

He spent eight years at Ogilvy & Mather where he started an award-winning social media practice; and championed digital, mobile and social expertise across the agency. Prior to Ogilvy, he was the global partnership lead for a division of Nokia.

Finally, he believes people are inherently decent. When he’s not working, he’s likely chasing his two little boys, yelling at athletes on TV who can’t hear him, watching Keith Moon clips on YouTube, devouring something with ketchup, reading anything he can find on Muhammad Ali or running a few miles on the Chicago lakefront.

Give, Get, Grow

What I am trying to do now is not only figure out how I can be more effective and empathetic but also discover how I can transfer some of the things that I have learned from leaders I have worked with to people who work for me. I have gone from leading for myself to leading and teaching for others. I have been unbelievably fortunate in my career to work for and be around incredible leaders. With that, I feel the responsibility to pass that on to others.

As cliché as it may sound, the more that you think about leadership that way, the more you end up growing as a leader. That’s a really nice kind of feedback to, “The more you give, the more you get, and the more you grow.”

Being a leader and thinking about leadership is part of my job. - @IanSohn #leadershipwithheart Share on X

Communicate Your Emotions

The reason we hire and pay people is because they can do a job. So, far be it for me to tell them how to do their job. - @IanSohn #leadershipwithheart Share on X

If you are frustrated, upset or angry about something, you have to communicate it. People have to know how you’re feeling in order to react, help, or just understand that you’re not happy with something. 

I think, what we all struggle with is how to communicate our emotions in a productive and respectful way without making it personal or hysterical.

There are times when I am good at it and times when I could do way, way better. I try to think about what I need to show from an emotional standpoint, in addition to the words that I use.

What do I need to show emotionally so that everybody in the room understands exactly the point I am trying to make?

If the words are the bones and the skeletons, the emotions are like the clothes that I am dressing them up with to make sure that I am communicating the right image to the room, so that they know where I am coming from and where I want to go.

Also, I never hold it against people when they show their human side when communicating, even if it comes out wrong. If the intention is good, then it’s okay, because they’re trying to do the right thing.

Fairly Unfazed

Just a couple of weeks ago, I had somebody very senior at work tell me that they were always surprised at how nonplussed they get at heightened situations but not me.

I trust people. I don’t micromanage. - @IanSohn #leadershipwithheart Share on X

I tend to remain fairly unfazed, or at least I try to not show that I am fazed by something. I try to remain calm. 

Obviously, being one of the senior people in the room, your tone and mood sets the tone for the rest

So, I try not to get hysterical because all it does is get everybody hysterical and nothing gets done.

Good lenses, bad frames. - @IanSohn #leadershipwithheart Share on X The more you give, the more you get, and the more you grow. - @IanSohn #leadershipwithheart Share on X


Connect with Ian on LinkedIn and Twitter

Subscribe, rate and review the podcast on iTunes!

Listen to the podcast on Spotify

Leave a Comment


Leadership With Heart With Heather R Younger

“Heather’s courage and vulnerability to share her authentic self are truly inspiring. She shares the most cutting-edge leadership strategies on topics like emotional intelligence and employee experience. If you’re looking to sharpen your leadership skills, this podcast is for you.”

Heather is a Workplace Culture Expert


CEO of Employee Fanatix

A leading workplace culture and employee engagement consulting & training firm.

A highly sought-after keynote speaker

Bringing the best insights from over 25,000 employee stories to the stage.

A top company culture strategist

An expert in creating spaces for these vital conversations.

A contributor to leading news outlets

A trusted expert for stories on workplace culture, customer and employee engagement, and employee retention.


The Cycle of Active Listening

Create a listening culture that elevates the workplace experience for everyone.

Through this guide, uncover how to ensure those in your care at work feel heard and valued, resulting in increased loyalty and satisfaction.

  • Understand why listening is the key to improved engagement
  • Learn how the Cycle of Active Listening contributes to strong workplace relationships
  • Get a practical framework for creating a listening culture that is bidirectional, responsive, and supportive

Contact Heather Today!


I'm really interested in...

(select all that apply)*

I can be reached at...

Additional Comments