2-20: "The More-Than-Me Leader" - Alex Goat

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"The More-Than-Me Leader"

Alex Goat is the CEO of Livity, a self-described, "youth-led creative network”. Their purpose is to create a more positive life for young people by partnering with marketing, talent and policy clients. Their goal is to make youth culture that creates change.

Alex is on a mission to make the world better. It gets her up in the morning and it keeps her up at night. 

So this episode is called, “The More-Than-Me Leader”.


Three Takeaways

  • Know the difference you're trying to make.

  • Set high standards.

  • Hold yourself to those standards.


"FEARLESS CREATIVE LEADERSHIP" PODCAST - TRANSCRIPT

Episode 2-20: "The More-Than-Me Leader" - Alex Goat

Hi. I’m Charles Day. And this is ‘Fearless’.

Alex Goat is the CEO of Livity, a self-described, "youth-led creative network”. Their purpose is to create a more positive life for young people by partnering with marketing, talent and policy clients. Their goal is to make youth culture that creates change.

Alex is on a mission to make the world better. It gets her up in the morning and it keeps her up at night. 

So this episode is called, “The More-Than-Me Leader”.

“But I just feel like there's more to life than just being one individual and I feel like if I'm... I don't feel like if I'm a success, if I'm not genuinely trying to have an impact that's greater than my own self or my own small family.”

I’ve talked about Purpose before on the show. Jim Stengel, who I think of as the Dean of Purpose, talked about it in episode 8. No one has done more than Jim to establish the importance of Purpose in a business context.

Simon Sinek, who hasn’t been on the show but who’s welcome any time, has brought Purpose to the individual level. He talks about knowing your personal ‘why’.  His advice is to use that to frame every meeting and every conversation.  

When I work with clients, I find this question of their ‘why’ - or more simply put, ’what difference they want to make’ is an invaluable reference. 

Leaders get caught up in the flywheel of running a business. Their calendars are filled by other people. They spend more time reacting than acting. 

But the truth is, life is short. Change is coming - whether you’re planning for it or not. And every day is a new beginning. You can choose to redefine who you are and what matters to you, at any point. 

That means that even the most successful leaders can increase their impact, and their sense of satisfaction and meaning from their role, starting right now.

The question they struggle with is usually how. 

This struggle is three-fold.  

First, because they’ve developed a narrative about what’s important to them that’s usually incomplete. Or unclear. Or inconsistent. Or often, all three. 

Second, because they’re surrounded by people who don’t tell them the whole story. Not necessarily because those people have an agenda. But because speaking truth to power is easier said than done for most.

And third, because they’re afraid their weaknesses might bring them down. They focus so hard on improving those areas that they can’t see and don’t use their strengths to full effect. 

Every leader is afraid. Of their weaknesses. Or outside threats. Or the status quo. Or sometimes the truth - as they see it.

But fear can be purposed. And the best leaders purpose it ever day. By making their leadership about more than just themselves. They’re afraid of not making a difference. Afraid of not helping unlock the potential of others.

If you define leadership success through your own lens, your view will be narrow and your impact short-term.

If you look at it through the eyes of others, you will see things you never imagined, and achieve things that will never be forgotten.

Here’s Alex Goat.

Charles:

Alex, thanks for being here today. Thanks for joining me on Fearless.

Alex Goat:

Thank you, thank you for having me.

Charles:

What's your first memory of something being creative in your life? When did creativity first show up as a concept in your life?

Alex Goat:

Wow, that's a really good question. My mum was an environmental campaigner and so from a young age I can remember sitting on the floor with kind of her painting things and placards to go out and protest. I think that's probably my first bit. Because literally sitting on the floor trying to do something creative, my mum was staunchly kind of finding creative ways for big world problems I think so-

Charles:

Wow.

Alex Goat:

It's probably a clear lesson in that from where I am now.

Charles:

So were you conscious that part of that was figuring out what the message actually was?

Alex Goat:

Yeah I think so. I just think my mum... We always had big topics to discuss in our house and there was always interesting kind of visual, kind of creative ways of how you get over that. Better say it always... I don't know about messaging so much, but that was kind of what I can remember. Kind of a visual way to demonstrate some of the issues that happen. Like my mum used to turn up with big bags of rubbish that she'd say, "Right I've just taken it to a school and I've literally put three bags of rubbish on the floor." And trying to tell people about recycling and stuff in the 80s so it was long before we are now. But yeah that's probably the first thing I could think of as creative ways to solve problems.

Charles:

Was creativity part of you growing up?

Alex Goat:

Yeah I think so. I mean I was quite, went to quite a school that was kind of fairly academic. I never really thought of myself as very creative. And it’s interesting, [inaudible 00:02:03] my brother is. My brother was like an amazing, got an art scholarship and he had a demonstrable creative talent. And everyone, "Oh you're just really good at organizing things." And I was like well I can't, I'm not a singer, I can't paint, I'm not a drama person. And I guess I never really thought that that was a skill. But I loved kind of fashion and textiles and all of that kind of thing. So I never thought those two things might like what I would do for a job and creativity in it's kind of earliest sense of when you learn what that is at school would be two things that you put together.

Charles:

And it's sad isn't it because schools do tend to teach us through the lens of there has to be a physical manifestation of creativity, otherwise you're not.

Alex Goat:

Yes.

Charles:

And it kind of boxes most of us into a way of thinking, it takes some significant part of adulthood to get past that I think.

Alex Goat:

Well I think creativity and imagination are much more aligned than we talk about them as we're growing up. Because you can have a wonderful imagination but unless you can articulate that in some verbal or kind of visual way, then it stops there and you stop being imaginative.

Charles:

Yeah exactly. You're not sure how to actually express, to say this is the way in which I am creative.

Alex Goat:

Yeah.

Charles:

What did you do at school? What did you study academically?

Alex Goat:

At school, I mean, I kind of went through the standard kind of things you do at school. And then I think for me, I guess my levels were English, maths, and textiles design. So again I guess... But when I think back to the things that I do now, which is you know, manage a business which is creative and the kind of financial side of all of those things it's probably a fairly good spectrum of, a broad mix of jack of all trades. Master of maybe none of them. But nevermind at the time. And then I went on to do politics and philosophy at university.

Charles:

I've never actually... So English, maths and textiles design. I've never heard of that combination before.

Were a lot of people doing that combination?

Alex Goat:

No, there was only about two of us doing textiles. Someone's like sewing and I'm like no, no it's about fashion and design and history. Probably closest thing to history or art that you would probably do at a-level.

Charles:

And then politics and philosophy. Now you've got the total skillset for leading a creative business actually.

Alex Goat:

Yeah, yeah. I wasn't a fan of philosophy to be honest. I started doing politics, philosophy and economics and I hated philosophy and I hated economics so I dropped the worst of them which was economics. Yeah and then managed to get by on philosophy and loved politics.

Charles:

Were you a risk taker growing up?

Alex Goat:

Yes. I think not like a physical risk taker, I wasn't really into sports. But I think I've always had quite a fun-seeking, hedonistic side. So in that respect ... I also used to be quite entrepreneurial and I used to put on club nights and all that kind of stuff when I was 15 and I would have to lie to the clubs that I was 18 just to get to put the party on and all of that kind of thing. So I think risk taking, but I think I've always had a clear vision of what I wanted to do. So my risk probably only goes that far.

Charles:

What was your first foray into the professional world?

Alex Goat:

I got a job at, before I was going on I got a job in a PR agency as a receptionist. And I literally looked around and I was like, "You kidding me? This is the job? You get to do this job?" And like the clients were Bacardi and something else. And I was like, "This, this is not a job. Come on guys." And did everything I had to do for the reception and was like right, give me some of that, give me some of that. I mean this was, I think I started in that agency before we got emails so at that time where you were still faxing stuff to clients and waiting four days for it to come back. So that shows my age. But I just thought this was like, this was kind of too good to be true. And also for the first I think it probably, that kind of bit of organization being a skill and communication being a skill, I was like, wow this is pretty good.

And then I went off to university and worked every summer on big kind of music activations at music festivals so I was on site at Glastonbury and Redding and Leeds and all of those as well. And then went back to study politics again.

Charles:

And why music particularly?

Alex Goat:

I just loved it. It's like, again, you kind of start to put your passions up, being really organized and having that kind of, being in that world. But I think, as I say, there's quite a lot of things that lead you into, ‘oh there are ways that I can use my skills in a world where I might not be the musician or the creative’. And I think quite often the work we do at Livity is about opening up the world of different things that you can follow your passion and do a job that you're really good at and get paid at. It doesn't always have to be the five jobs that they tell you there are at school. And so we kind of do a lot about that. But I think yeah, the opening up of a world which is creative and interesting in lots of different ways, so I guess I've always kind of played into that.

Charles:

As you moved through the professional, your professional world, what were the decision kind of pivots you were using? What made you decide what you wanted to do next?

Alex Goat:

I think some of the decisions were based on, I think, probably three things. One, I've always been very ambitious. So I've always had a desire to progress in whatever it is I'm doing, not necessarily sure what that has been. But finding places where I'm able to develop quite quickly. The second one is, I think I've made lots of decisions on my life based on, I wouldn't necessarily go so far as my kind of, my moral compass, but I've always been someone that has, wants to have an impact on the world, and if I don't feel like I can do that I'll move on. And then some of it has just been, I wouldn't say the kind of easy life, but when I left university, I thought I really want to work in international development. And that sounds really amazing. And I looked at it and I was like, "That looks hard." I am not, I don't want to spend four years in a fast track civil service job to do that. So some of it's also been based on looking at an interesting, fun way of getting there, as well.

Charles:

Where did that desire to want to make a difference come from? I mean that's a very clear articulation of, you know-

Alex Goat:

I mean, I would probably say there's somewhere in there from the kind of stuff my parents have always done.

Charles:

Were both your parents pretty active?

Alex Goat:

Yeah, my dad was more in the kind of business side, my mum more in that side. And I think I probably brought the two of what they do together. But I just, I would say, that's probably where it starts from. But I just feel like there's more to life than just being one individual and I feel like if I'm... I don't feel like if I'm a success, if I'm not genuinely trying to have an impact that's greater than my own self or my own small family.

Charles:

Does that guide you everyday?

Alex Goat:

Yeah.

Charles:

You wake up with that.

Alex Goat:

Yeah. Yeah, it's like what is the opportunity to have a greater impact. I mean that's exactly why I do the job I do today. It's not easy, but yeah definitely. And it doesn't always work and sometimes you just go, "I can't bother now," and just sit on the beach somewhere for two weeks and not think about anything else. But yeah I wouldn't be, I've left jobs and I've made decisions based on the fact that I'm not doing anything other than the fact that I'm making someone money. And maybe winning them an award which doesn't really mean anything in the long term anyway.

Charles:

What was your career path until Livity?

Alex Goat:

So I left university and went to work in business development for a big events agency, part of IPG. And did that kind of, did the cold calling side of things, and went, ‘that's alright’. And then thought, "This is not interesting to me, I think I should go and work for a charity." My mum said, "You will kill everyone there within five minutes. They move so slowly. Find something else but don't do that to yourself at 24." And I found, I found a role in an agency which I spent seven years in, which I loved, and that was working on lots of government work. So I spent seven years growing accounts for the British government all around behavior change. And I loved that because it was working, bringing the private sector in and helping try and solve problems like teenage pregnancy, drugs, quitting smoking, financial inclusion, lots of those kind of things as well. So for me that was the first time where I was like, ‘Wow I can progress, I can be in a creative space. I can make really great money for myself and drive my career forward and kind of make a difference in that space.’

Charles:

What did you learn about behavior change at that kind of scale? Because those are huge issues.

Alex Goat:

Yeah, it's really fascinating. There's nothing ... like they are, you know, lots of people think that working on kind of some of those big government accounts are really tedious because you know you don't get flown out like the Jack Daniels team next to me got flown out to Lynchburg, TN with their clients and were there on the lash for four days and I was sitting there like going to Waterloo and back again. But the rigor that sits behind those things and the access that you get to a huge amount of information and individuals who are experts, like world experts, in how you change behavior at a population scale.

There is like, that for me is so incredibly fascinating because it's...there's individuals that sit within that, there's kind of societal changes, there's cultural impact, there's so much stuff that sits, that ladders into, ultimately what can feel like an ad campaign at the back of it. But often it's just there's so much more depth to it I think, than there is with consumer marketing. And that's what I loved. I really loved. And you could actually see the impact of what you did. So working on a tobacco control campaign for five years and you reduce the number of people smoking in the UK from 23% to 19% over. That's a lot of people.

Charles:

Yeah and a lot of lives saved.

Alex Goat:

Yeah, that impact is really, really rewarding.

Charles:

And do the things that make a difference at that kind of scale, do they apply in a smaller way? Like can you take some of those insights about how to create change in behavior and apply it to an organization?

Alex Goat:

Yeah, I mean I think... Yes definitely.  Do you mean to a business organization in the same way?

Charles:

Yeah.

Alex Goat:

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I always think that the work I did there stood me in much better stead than when I moved off that when the 2010 elections came and we went from our second biggest client to a zero client overnight when the Tories came in and austerity came in, which is fair and right. But then going to work with two of the biggest FMCG companies in the world and applying that kind of rigor is really, really [inaudible] on consumer choice. Because that is also important. And it's even more important now when consumers are making more active choices around all of those things as well.

Charles:

Who did you go work with?

Alex Goat:

Unilever was a big client and Reckitt was a big client then and really interesting and challenging in very, very different ways. But that's, not long after that I left Iris to go to Livity.

Charles:

So tell us about Livity. What prompted that?

Alex Goat:

Oh god, Livity. It's a mad, kind of crazy place. We changed the articulation of what we are and what we talk about ourselves every 18 months or so because it's never quite fit for purpose. But I met the two founders of Livity years before when we were working on a project and I was like I'm in this big agency that's growing globally and you know I'm going to run it one day. And these crazy people down in Brixton trying, trying to literally try and change the world with everything they do. They're crazy. And every few years I'd kind of look at them and think, "Oh, they're just doing things which are genuinely really interesting." And so, then I'd go back and you know, do the kind of big stuff I was working on. And I just, I got to the point where I thought I'm only going to make more money or lose more money or the impact that I will make in a really large organization is limited. And if I want to genuinely feel my personal impact on a business and help that business have greater impact in the world, then let's go somewhere small and let's try and do something that isn't really done anywhere else. That's how I came to Livity.

Charles:

And so what is the current articulation of the purpose?

Alex Goat:

So we are a youth-led creative network. And youth-led being the most important bit of that because we work with clients to design things which are useful and meaningful in young people's lives. And we work across kind of three verticals. One of them is around the future citizen, so tackling big social issues that affect individuals, affect society, and affect businesses as well. So a lot in the kind of extremism, safety, violence kind of space. And so that's about bringing young people in to solve those problems with some of the largest organizations in the world.

Second, part of the work we do is around the future consumer. So looking at working with brands, like we just a huge big launch with Netflix this week. We work with brands who want to connect meaningfully with youth audiences and want to do things which are sustainable and purposeful.

And the third aspect to that is the future talent space that we work in. So how do you work with large organizations, large global organizations, and work with them directly in a talent space to drive innovation and change through talent. So how businesses, how young people and new people enter the world can ready themselves for the world of corporates but also how do corporates need to change and evolve to ready themselves for the next generation.

So when you put all of those three things together what we do is, ambitiously, try and transform individuals, business and society to create a more positive future for the next generation.

Charles:

Sounds very simple.

Alex Goat:

Yeah it is not simple, but it is interesting.

Charles:

So do you go about bringing together powerful, big corporations whose agendas are well known and the kind of the idealism of younger people?

Alex Goat:

The idealism is exactly the way... I mean I think there is a different level of problem solving that occurs when you are not indoctrinated into the world of corporate policy or public policy or marketing, all of those things which are useful.

Charles:

The course of the earnings.

Alex Goat:

But I think it's the bringing together and I think that's what, in our best form we are the glue between those things. And I think we are not in any way a charity, we don't just work with young people and underfunded to try and make change. We make change through, as I say, business change and business affect society and government are not affecting any particularly positive change. Certainly not in this country or around the world at the moment. It's up to us to make that change. So the best businesses know that they're part of that, whether it's their responsibility or their opportunity.

But for us, I mean, I think we've been doing what we've been doing for a long time before I got here, but you know, for almost 18 years now. And I think what we have is a really unique model of the blending of young people and organizations together. And so it's not...you know youth-led is the important thing. So how we involve young people at every stage of the collaboration and the making of our work is really important. We talk about a kind of micro impact and a macro impact that we have. So we've got a micro impact, which is bringing in young people physically or digitally into the insight, the creation, the production, the distribution of our work, because it makes our work better, of course. If we're talking about youth brands that your proximity to your audience, the shorter that is, the better and the more effective the work is, because you are in their culture, in their lives, who are useful or meaningful. But we measure our social impact in that way. So all the young people that work on our work have a plan. There are skills and experiences that are gained, there's networks, there's portfolio building. So we measure all of that. And then there was also the impact of the work we make ourselves, as well. And we measure that impact, as well.

Charles:

So when you're bringing kids into this, are you looking for certain kinds of kids? Are you're looking for certain skill sets?

Alex Goat:

We always say we stand for all young people, and work with clients across the globe from our Brixton space. We work with a very diverse group of young people on purpose. You know, our heritage is based in Brixton, so anyone who knows Brixton will know it's a very vibrant, very diverse place. But our network spans much wider than that. We have a nationwide network of young people, and then as I say, globally, very different.

It's young creatives, young activists, young entrepreneurs, young influencers. And if it's about a very specific piece of work, we'll go out and work with individuals in different communities specifically. But the network of young people that we have, which is in the 5,000 or so, of those kind of young people. So, we're able to very specifically for everything we make, we're able to pull in the right young people and we blend that with the strategic and the creative guidance of our team.

So it can sometimes be quite messy creative process, but we've learned to embrace that, and genuinely, as I say, it makes our work better. We would just be another creative business if we didn't do that and we didn't hold ourselves to account on that.

Charles:

So bring this to life for me. Give me an example of what the output of a relationship might be between a brand and Livity.

Alex Goat:

Yeah. So as the couple of things here, I mean we, on the marketing side, we work a lot with Netflix, and just on Monday, there's a show called Top Boy, which is a really seminal show that was broadcast in the UK a few years ago. Netflix bought the rights to it and are launching it in October. Happens to be that Drake is also part of that, and part of the ownership of that. And so we work with them to create the first in a series of work that will be about launching that. And we drop the trailer at Drake's opening show at the O3 as it's now called on Monday night to 20,000 people. But the young people had been part of lots of different aspects of the making of that.

On the other side of things, we work with clients. Like we've worked with Google for a long time, and we've worked with them on programs around lots of the areas of responsibility that they have from internet safety through to digital citizenship.

So on the flip side of that, we've for years incubated, developed and created a program that went nationwide, which is about working directly with young people from lots of different backgrounds, in terms of their ... bringing them together under the understanding of what positive content looks and feels like and how you start to understand what an echo chamber is online and how you start to debate things. And that is a nationwide road show that goes into areas all across the UK, which Google obviously now run themselves. So there's a really wide variety of the work that we do. But all that has a, as I say, a micro and macro impact in that.

Charles:

And so the skill and the insight that young people bring in these kinds of dynamics is they understand how to talk to people like themselves?

Alex Goat:

Yeah, we work with young people in so many different ways. So part of it is, yes, a deep ethnographic understanding of young people, and because we're not a marketing agency, you don't go, "Oh, we've got a brief for moms. I need to know what moms this specific geography look and feel like." Because everything that we do is working with young people, we hold in high regard the understanding of yes, how they feel about entertainment, but also how they feel about their future and their family and relationships and fashion and their identity and belonging and all of those really rich tapestry of things, which helps you then understand where there is a meaningful role to play in their lives.

And then we'll also work with young people on the specific creation of that work themselves. And then also work with youth production partners to make sure that what we produce is genuinely authentic. Because we surround ourselves ... We're a free co-working space with Under 25s in Brixton. So we surround ourselves with under 25 so whether that's knowing that Snapchat existed before most people did or being the people to tell Blackberry that BBM was a thing that wasn't just used by business users 10 years ago. Those kind of things that naturally bubble up into actually how our platform is being used for good and for sometimes less good as well, naturally come to us, I think, as well.

Charles:

Do the brands walk in the door?

Alex Goat:

Yeah.

Charles:

Are you knocking on their door as well?

Alex Goat:

Yeah, it's a real mixture of both. I mean, I think we're known for being problem-solvers, and so we'll often, when there are, "I've got a problem that none of my other agency group can solve," that's quite often where we come in, and that's also often when we get recommended. And so that's really interesting because on a good day, we don't ever really get a marketing brief. We get a consultancy brief, or an innovation brief, or a genuinely, "Here's my one line problem. How do you solve it?" And that is phenomenally interesting and that's what keeps ... We never answer the same thing twice, and that's a challenge when you like efficiency of production and efficiency of like, "Let's build another x or y." That never happens. But it makes for a phenomenally interesting career.

Charles:

I can only imagine. How do you design a business that is able to deal with that kind of fluidity and flexibility?

Alex Goat:

Do you know, that is not easy either. We have traditionally ... I took this decision when I became CEO 18 months ago. We used to do a lot of different things in-house, and we would be, as I say, try and accommodate that. But because what we do is so varied, we actually took the decision to be as lean and agile as we can. What are the core things, which are the things that we need to retain the intellectual property of? And that is the access we have to young people, the insight we have with young people, and the ability to create with those young people, for them, with those young people.

Everything else really needs to sit elsewhere. And so that was quite a challenging discussion, but it means that we can be really agile. I think that the biggest thing for me is running a business with both purpose and profit, and that is a constant tension of which there was very few people to learn from. And so to hold ourselves true to the purpose that we do hold ourselves to, which is to create a more positive future for the next generation, we have to be able to be really selective of the kind of work we want to do.

Charles:

What was it like going through the process of stripping the company back to that kind of purity of core proposition and core value? I mean, did you have to get rid of people in that process?

Alex Goat:

I think there was a natural attrition from the evolution of the work that we did, which was really helpful, in that space. And we used to do a lot of work that was funded by government. So historically lots of people thought we were a charity. We had big lottery funding. So some of those naturally came to an end. But yeah, we did have to re-imagine the business for a more agile future, which is more volatile in the wider world.

And one of the things that we have done is been really mindful that what we aren't creating is an agency model over here. And we then do some nice stuff with them with our excess money over here. Like we bring those things together as close as possible. And so therefore it's kind of less wasted. Like the methodology with how we make our work is our impact, rather than, "Oh, cool. We make some cool shit for brands over here, and then we invest in something else." We want to [crosstalk] a different-

Charles:

So, so you're completely integrated in terms of we do this in order to do that.

Alex Goat:

And that is what, when you look at proper ... I'm not particularly good at reading business books, but the things I do focus on is like progressive social-enterprise businesses and how you actually do that, and the most successful ones of those are whose purpose and profit are inextricably linked, rather than, you've got a nice business over here and a CSR project over here.

Charles:

Yeah, for sure. I want to come to that point in a second. I'm really struck by your willingness and ability to strip away periphery, get to the core proposition, because there are so many companies who are going through that kind of self-exploration and I think growing realization that they are doing too many different things that are not valuable enough to anybody. And intellectually want to get to that place, but emotionally have a very hard time shedding all of that stuff.

Alex Goat:

That is when there are many, many things that are harder about running a purposeful business, but that is one of the easy things. Because it was not sustainable otherwise. And if you think, ‘Well either we exist or we don't exist, and the only way that we'll exist as if we do work which is truly purposeful and it's brilliant work every single time. Otherwise we won't be here, and the impact that we can have will not be here.’ So it is easier to make decisive decisions because there is a clear purpose that that aligns to, in my opinion.

Charles:

No, I think that's really well said. And I think it's one of the reasons why if you look at ... What's the most classic case, Kodak, right? Kodak didn't have a purpose. They were simply in the business of making money, and they made a ton of money, and everybody told them this wasn't going to work. But as somebody who worked there said to me once, "We were so addicted to the drug of selling film that even though we knew we were going to die as a result of that, we couldn't get off the drug." So, because they had no purpose.

The conversation about purpose I think is really interesting, because you hear a lot of brands, many, many, many brands, most brands I think these days, talking about purpose. But to your point, rarely does it seem like it's truly embedded in the core of why the business exists. It looks like it's a post-rationalized affectation that's trying to figure out why somebody might have built this thing, right? When in fact it was designed because there was an opportunity in the marketplace to make money. So, talk to me about what it means to actually build a purpose-driven business.

Alex Goat:

Well, I mean I think I was lucky. I took the helm off two founders, Michelle Morgan and Sam Conniff, and Livity was started as an experiment in that exact way. Can we use the marketing dollars of some of the big organizations in the world to affect positive change? So I am lucky that that is not retrofitted into our business.

So, yeah, first and foremost, I think, you know ... And we work with lots of organizations who are struggling in that space and who are trying to find some meaning in what they do, because consumers are demanding it and actually so are the people that work for them. And that's the critical ... That's kind of why some of the talent stuff has come to us.

So it is easier for lots of people who are start-ups now to have a purpose because actually that's probably why a lot of ... You know, there's a lot, as I say, in the talent space, of people wanting to work for an organization who they understand the purpose. And increasingly obviously with start-ups and entrepreneurs, people are starting that to solve a problem rather than just to make money for themselves.

And so yes. So Livity, as I say, I think there's lots of times when that's come into question as to, "Well, what if we wanted to expand more and we just stopped doing some of this, and we just did more of this?" It's like, "Well, actually we would just be a commodity." But I think when you're talking about brands themselves, it's interesting, we talk a lot about it and there's a lot shared through our office and through our networks around organizational purpose, and is this good or is this not good? And, you know, I don't envy lots of the marketing teams around the world who know that this is important, and it's important to them and they're just not quite sure how to get there.

But I do think that the progress that the majority of brands are making is worthwhile. And so whether you get it right or you get it wrong, I think that there is from where we stand and the people, I think we're, granted, we are quite lucky because we also most of the time work with quite progressive organizations, either those who are on a journey of change or those who know that they rapidly need to change. Both of those are good places to be from our perspective. And so I do think that that isn't going away. There's not a purpose crash, and everyone's just want to go, go back to the way it is.

Charles:

It's funny, I think you're right about that, and I also agree with you that the quest of finding a purpose has enormous value in and of itself, regardless of whether you actually find something that is genuinely authentic. I think it was two years ago I was at the Cannes Creativity Festival, advertising festival, and there were any number of people throughout the course of the week who were actually trying to claim that the era of purpose was over there. We'd done that.

Alex Goat:

Yeah. I was there that year.

Charles:

Remember that?

Alex Goat:

Yeah.

Charles:

We came back and I was talking to Jim Stengel, who I regard in many ways as kind of the father of it. I think he has done more to articulate what purpose is and to bring it into the everyday lexicon. But I said to him, "I didn't realize purpose was a thing that just was this transient moment in time." It's just people trying to claim it as a marketing affectation, and let's find another thing to talk about. But to your point, it is front and center every minute of every day.

Alex Goat:

And it is front and center of the next generation, whether they are your future consumers, your future workforce or your future citizens and your voters. It is integral to them, unequivocally. So if you think that it's going to be a next fad, and the next thing you're going to do is AI and you can leave purpose, because they're two separate things, you're finished.

Charles:

How do you go about leading an organization that has that kind of focus and is also dealing with a group of people who are not motivated by the traditional kinds of things that workforces have historically been motivated by?

Alex Goat:

How do we deal with that ourselves as Livity, or how do we help clients?

Charles:

Well, first, no, first, I'm curious how you deal with it-

Alex Goat:

I mean, I think-

Charles:

As the CEO of that company, how do you deal with that?

Alex Goat:

Again, I think we are in a lucky position. Lots of people find us, whether they're new into their careers, or they're more established in their careers. Lots of people find us because they've done, they've sold the stuff that they need to sell, or they made the broke off that they want to make, and they've said, "There must be more to life than this."

Charles:

So, you have this magnet for talent.

Alex Goat:

Yeah, we do that, and lots of people will go ... In a way, we're quite a well-kept secret, because if you know about our folk, how we were introduced, people go, "God, you guys are amazing." But it's not until you hear about us. So, that part of my job, and I'm on that journey in terms of our reputation. But, I think that is one way.

I think we've just always really clearly articulated, and we haven't always got it all right, I think we are a very human organization, and as transparent as we can be in that respect. And so, whether that is opening up our Monday meeting to not just everyone who works with us, but any young people that's using our space. So there is very little, in terms of the transparency of business and what's going well and what isn't going well that we aren't comfortable to share wider.

I do think, as well, the business model that we do have, there's two sides to it. One of them is always about being agile, but the other one is, in this day and age, creativity is so many different things. It’s noy just … I've made very few standard ads in my life. I've made enough of them, but it's not one channel anymore. So, actually, our ability to be able to bring in ... to your question earlier ... different types of creative people, into our work, in a way that's very organic to us, is very specific to that problem, means that we get to work with such a wide variety of people who have different motivations. That's lucky for us.

I guess, when we're talking about it with clients, and we work with some really large organizations in the talent space, from Skye to the RAF, we talk about and we talk a lot about that space.

They're going on that journey, internally around purpose and innovation and progression. And, I think actually sometimes it's … You know there's a consumer need for it, but actually when you apply the internal workforce need for it, it actually becomes more business critical, which is helpful to accelerate it.

Charles:

Are there people who don't fit into an organization like this? Are there people that just …?

Alex Goat:

Into our organization?

Charles:

Yeah.

Alex Goat:

That's a very interesting question. We don't sit there, I mean, our competitive set is really broad. It is advertising agencies, it is media networks, it is the kind of PR social agencies. We don't always work on the big, glitzy, glamorous side of things, so I think there are some people who like to make their name on making like the number of Linkedin popups I get when it's the Superbowl. It's like, "Wow, we've been responsible, we're so happy we've made the Superbowl ad." I mean that's literally, that's so inconsequential to me. I'd much rather drop a cast reveal at the front of Drake's show personally.

But those, some of those big things, because we are talking to youth audiences, because we're doing things which are about solving some problems, if people want those big things that I can put on my reel, that's probably not the kind of people that we tend to work with. But, that's me having to clutch at straws there, again.

Charles:

So, it must be remarkable in many ways actually to have to be running a company for whom there is, there is so much potential talent.

Alex Goat:

Yeah.

Charles:

It sounds like there is a very large universe. I mean you are reference, you are offering a reference point to people to say, “Come and make a difference.”

Alex Goat:

Yeah.

Charles:

Using your own voice to do that.

Alex Goat:

Yeah.

Charles:

Right?

Alex Goat:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yes. And, as I say, we, we always, we are as broad as possible. I mean, I think, you know, one of the challenges with running a purpose in a profit businesses is how, where you reinvest in the things that we do, we invest in, in terms of youth programs in a space which is four times the size that we need it and the infrastructure that goes with that. Because, at any one day, you know, we had four and a half thousand individually on people sign into our space last year to use it as a coworking space or collaborate with us. Not all at once. We would be overrun, but we make decisions on where we invest rather than taking a burn off to x or y. So, I think there's probably different compromises that people make when they want to work for a business like that. As often as I say, not as clean as it would be if you're somebody that wants to take full ownership and accolade for the kind of work that you do, rather than it be a 24-year-old scriptwriter who's been really part of that process. And, you want to hero those individuals, I think there's not that much room for ego.

Charles:

Tell me how you manage a business that is trying to balance profit and purpose.

Alex Goat:

Carefully.

Yeah, very carefully. I think probably the challenge, the biggest challenge that I have with it is, there are not other people trying to do it. There are lots of purposeful businesses now, but they are product based businesses and I think the challenge that we have, the opportunity we have to prove a different business model is, it's a service based business that is purposeful and that is not something that I know about in many other places. We work with some really large consultancies who are purpose driven through consultancy and that's like, “That's great,” but the majority of you make your money off Astra Zeneca or something like we don't, we don't have that.

So, I think some of the things which are challenges and opportunities are, we make quite tough decisions on the people that we work with. And, so I think one of the challenges for me is to sometimes take a call as to whether we think the work ladders up to what we want to do. And, I've turned down some things which from a commercial perspective of we would feel like you’re madness to do, but they wouldn't do our best work and it wouldn't matter about to what we do. So, there's quite a lot of difficult decisions that need to be made in that space. That's probably number one.

Charles:

What's the emotional feeling that goes with that for you?

Alex Goat:

As I say, I think, you know, there are things that are challenges. There are things that are opportunities. And, I look at the people that work, I can feel, I've been there for long enough now, I have a good gut feel as to whether people will question my leadership or not. And, my integrity is really important and therefore the integrity of the business, are pretty aligned. And, so for me to say, "Okay guys, we're just going to do this thing over here." I've done that before and it hasn't felt right for us. And, it hasn't felt right for me as a leader and there has to be quite a lot of faith put in people who are trying to do this. And, I think, as I say, my integrity of standing by what we say that we're going to do is tested quite frequently. And, but in a purposeful organization where most people are saying, "Why are we doing this?" You have a clear sense we think of when to make that judgment call. And, otherwise you would have people that say, "I don't want to work here." So ...

Charles:

So, it really is a fine balance there. Are you still privately held?

Alex Goat:

Yes, we have a small amount of social impact investment to help us kind of scale, but also to hold us to account from a social impact perspective. Because, if anyone knows about the kind of social impact world, you know, reporting or commercials, there is a very clear way that people do that. But, social impact reporting is not nearly as definitive. So, for us, we always want to progress and be a progressive, impactful business. So, it's been really, really helpful to have experts in that space to help make sure that we are always demonstrating that we are pushing those boundaries as well as the kind of crazy boundaries.

Charles:

Just going back to the question about marrying purpose and profit, can you imagine getting to a place where the profit side won that conversation?

Alex Goat:

Over the years, we have ... that has been in constant tension and I think we have, we've changed quite a bit over the years. So, when I first joined, everything that we did had a macro kind of social impact and everything does in a certain way. But, also we looked at, if we want to be sustainable, we also need to work with some of those organizations who just want to do really cool shit with young people and we know that we will hold ourselves to account to the way that we make our work will always be impactful. As well as we have a kind of minimum viable impact that we create out in the world and we have a kind of maximum. And, so that's a really interesting balance. I'm sorry, your question was about the purpose?

Charles:

Can you ever imagine you getting to the point where the profit side of the equation has to win one day?

Alex Goat:

I mean, I'd like us to be ... I would like us to have a wider global footprint and that will only come with, I think with having, we have, we do a lot of work globally with partners. I'd like us to able to do that. I genuinely just think the biggest risk to Livity is us commoditizing ourselves in the world the world does not need another agency at all. It doesn't need another consultancy. It does need someone like us.

And, so the compromising too far, would make us a commodity and would put us out of business or just make us average.

Charles:

So, given that you've got huge reference point in terms of why we exist, right? True definition of the future. You are clear about the core kind of, not just proposition, but the way the thing is structured. You're clear about the kind of people that you need to bring on board. Do you also have a clear articulation on a day to day basis of your kind of values? Are there behaviors that the company that you hold each other to?

Alex Goat:

Our founders have always said "We're not going to be one of those businesses with our values went up on the wall."

Charles:

Yeah.

Alex Goat:

And, so over the years we sought to try to sort of defined it and then they've kind of never been anything I think because the purpose sits at the heart of it. But, I think if you, if I was going to articulate them, I would say collaborative, ambitious, progressive, kind and all of those things. Yes. So that, that for me is the way we've always kind of, as I say, we've all been in businesses where you spend hours and hours, you know, we internalize enough when you're trying to say, "Should we be doing this?" "How does this affect this individual?" Like, there was enough internal discussion around the purpose of a business and how we stick to that. Than sitting in a meeting room with our leadership team like that. We have enough challenges/opportunities --

Charles:

Well, it's interesting too, I think that, A, I think to your point when you are that clear about the difference you're trying to make, values often fall out of that fairly naturally and your ability to just to kind of articulate them time that succinctly and that quickly is kind of his demonstration of that. I've seen companies who in one case the founder of a company said to me, I said, I asked them a question about values and he said, "Well we had some, we wrote them down but we left them on the wall of the place when we left that office and we forgot to bring them with us and that we can't remember what they are." Thinking, probably not actually an integral part of how you operate then.

Alex Goat:

I think it is really challenging for agencies though, because we've ... in fact actually one of our strategy leads, Emily, was out at South by Southwest a couple of weeks ago. She did a really successful panel session there and she did a couple of other times and the campaign US headline was "Creative Agencies are Fucked" because it is that we talk … traditionally there's been really clear ways that we make money and the ways that we add value to our clients. And, all of those things had been compromised now.

Whether that's like an in house agency or production company or going straight to media suppliers or programmatic, any of those things like the space that was a comfortable space for a large bunch of creative, ambitious people to inhabit is under threat. And, so I can … we talk a lot about, you know, as Emily's kind of talk was like "It's not enough just to help your clients find the meaningful way to work in the world. You need to do that yourself as well." And, that isn't, I personally think, that isn't just creating your set of values. I think there was something more fundamental to that.

Charles:

How do you lead? Do you have a leadership philosophy?

Alex Goat:

No? I guess I lead by example, where I can. That's always been important to me.

Charles:

What's the example you want to set?

Alex Goat:

Just if I'm not prepared to do it, why should anyone else? I have really high standards. I hope I share those with people. I hope that I give people space to be able to be themselves. And, I think what I've learned over time is to be more authoritative when I need to.

Charles:

Was that hard to learn?

Alex Goat:

Yeah.

Charles:

Because?

Alex Goat:

I used to … I've progressed fairly quickly through my career when I would always end up managing people that were older than me or you know, there's this ... I don't think I ever had any sort of imposter syndrome. I know lots of women talk about that but don't think I did. But, I did used to think "I'm just making it up." And, actually someone said to me not that long ago, "You're not making it up. You're using your best judgment." And, I'm now old enough and long enough in this industry to know that that is true. And, so learning that lesson was really helpful because you kind of, I think for me, I was like, "No, actually," and I am responsible, I take responsibility. I think that would be another thing that I would hope that I demonstrate, is taking accountability. And, I expect other people to take accountability. And, that is the biggest challenge that I have when people don't. And, so therefore you do have to be more authoritative at times where I probably either I didn't need to be or I didn't feel like it was my place to do that. And, so over time, that's the biggest shift I would say probably with me. And, I don't get it right all the time.

Charles:

It's such an interesting reference point that I had somebody say to me once, "I don't know that I'm right about this." And, I said, "I know you don't know. Nobody knows. But, the organization believes you're more likely to be right than anybody else and so your responsibility is to stand up and be counted.”

Alex Goat:

Yeah.

Charles:

Yeah, and I think it's easier to understand that as we get older, because age just gives us perspective. But I think that recognizing certainty is not part of leadership. In fact, it's our responsibility to move through uncertainty and to provide it for other people even when we're not. What are you afraid of?

Alex Goat:

What am I afraid of? Being average? Yeah, I think, having … I guess my ambition is fairly tightly tied up with Livity because I have such a firm belief in it. Livity being average. Me being an average leader. I would be, that would feel like that wouldn't certainly wouldn't feel like a win in my life.

Charles:

What would make you average in your mind? What would average look like?

Alex Goat:

Oh, average would look like putting work out there in the world that anybody could make. Average would look like, just the things ... people thinking that the place that we work is an okay place to work. Average would look like not being able to say that there was a different way of business. Those things.

I think I really, I joined Livity because, yes there was a purpose in it, but also there is a competitive advantage in knowing an audience genuinely really, really well and understanding how to create effective change. And, so for me, losing that in some respect, is just an average business and an average place. That's why we're still in Brixton. Brixton is not average.

Charles:

Brixton is not average.

I wrap every episode with three takeaways that I've heard that I think contribute to your success as a creative leader.

First is, clearly, you know the difference you're trying to make. It sits front and center, as you said, it's the thing that gets you up in the morning and I suspect is a reference point for you when you go to bed at night as well about how have you-

Alex Goat:

Or at four in the morning.

Charles:

Or at four in the morning, exactly.

Two is you clearly have a very high set of standards in terms of what you expect of yourself and I think others in that process. And, then third, not unrelated. You hold yourself to those standards. There are a lot of people who claim to believe in a set of values and standards and then do things that are not clearly connected with those things, but you clearly do. Do those resonate with you?

Alex Goat:

Yeah. Thanks. That was the best. That's the best Friday morning. No pep talk now. Yeah, I would. I would agree. I would. I would hope that that is the person that I am. So, yeah. [crosstalk]

Charles:

It seems pretty clear to me that you are. Alex, thanks so much for joining me today.

Alex Goat:

Thank you so much for having me. It was a real honor.