The Faces of Modern Leadership series spotlights rising directors who are part of Diligent’s Modern Leadership initiative, a network of nearly 700,000 CEOs, board directors and executives. Modern Leadership aims to impact diversity, equity, and inclusion at more than 16,000 organizations worldwide, dedicated to building the largest, most diverse pool of highly qualified directors and executives in the world.
Mike Jackson is the founder of 2050 Marketing, and the Chief Marketing Officer for Vision Media Management & Fulfillment, LLC. He was an exclusive on-air contributor for CNBC from 2014 through 2020, and continues to provide expertise as a marketing analyst, guest commentator and contributor for NBC, CNBC, ABC, NPR, CCTV, USA Today and various podcasts. Previously, Mike held executive roles at CODA Automotive, General Motors Corporation, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Coors Brewing Company. Mike is a passionate champion of diversity and inclusion, racial equality, economic opportunity, and upward mobility for our next generation of leaders.
Backstory: From Corporate America to Entrepreneurship
Prior to stepping into the business world, Mike completed his undergraduate studies at Kent State University and then went on to complete his master’s degree in journalism and communications at the University of Southern California. Eager to switch to the client side of business, over the next nearly three decades Mike assumed executive roles in sales, marketing and operations at Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Coors Brewing Company, and General Motors.
In each of these roles, Mike navigated pivotal changes across industries. He worked at Coca-Cola and Pepsi during the era often dubbed “The Cola Wars.” When he worked for Coors, the industry was during a monumental shift towards light beer. In the automotive business, Mike says, “It was major change from day one. Consumers wanted to move away from passenger cars to SUVs and pickups, then to more fuel-efficient cars.” Working at each of these companies during times of innovation and upheaval gave Mike unique experience into what it’s like to lead through transformation and come out stronger.
Following this robust exposure across large consumer and automotive brands, Mike craved a smaller-scale business setting to dig into his entrepreneurial aspirations.
“After 28 years in corporate America, I decided I wanted to work in a nimbler and more entrepreneurial environment.”
The Secret Sauce for Success
When leading a team, Mike is known for getting the best out of his teammates. He’s able to locate that fine line between challenging others while still being respectful of their needs and personalities to get the right results.
Mike’s extensive experience in various leadership roles across sectors such as, automotive, consumer products, beverages, media and entertainment, and tech has given him a substantial background for handling challenges at all points of business. “I’ve seen a lot. I’ve been in a lot of board meetings during times of change and innovation, but also during some tough times. That perspective is important and can help you anticipate what’s next,” he explains.
Mike has also been faced with many roles where racial, economic inclusion and diversity were severely lacking or nonexistent altogether. Running into this issue through much of his career is something he cites as a contributing factor to his expertise and skill set today.
“Every job I’ve had, I was the first black man in the position. I had a lot of great relationships and mentors along the way. I have a unique perspective of being at corporations large and small, public, and private, but always in the position of being the first black man who held the role. That’s why I’m so passionate about what I do, and that’s what I think gives me a unique and invaluable perspective in any boardroom.”
Thoughts on Diversity and ESG
With the acceleration of ESG and diversity initiatives in the business space over the past two years, stakeholder expectations have shifted. Mike stresses accountability as a major theme companies are now grappling with.
“Companies over the last year have hopefully come to the realization that they’re going to be held accountable. Employees have expectations and a voice. As Minneapolis learned, you need to be a real part of your community. You have a responsibility to solve the issues in your community. You have a responsibility to multiple stakeholders.”
As corporate purpose and ESG continue to gain traction across the business landscape, Mike highlights a sense of urgency that wasn’t quite felt in previous years.
“The notion of ESG was a ‘nice-to-have’ five years ago. It’s a responsibility going forward. The easiest way to address those challenges is with leadership in the C-suite and the board that reflects the needs and expectations from shareholders, consumers, employees, and the communities you serve. Diverse leadership teams outperform those lacking inclusion. And it’s increasingly driven not just by social expectations but also from a competitive and performance standpoint.”
A Passion for Creative Strategy
Mike’s most recent assignment is working as the Chief Marketing Officer for Vision Media Management and Fulfillment, LLC, a role he took on right at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The company provides physical and digital marketing materials to movie theaters, but when everything shut down, they needed to pivot to a ‘digital first’ strategy.
“The team at Vision Media worked hard to accelerate the pace of digital. All the assets were being delivered efficiently and securely. Every day there was a new demand from clients and the team collaborated with studios, to exceed their expectations. It’s fun to see a company really take a close look at the business and pivot as quickly as you can.” Mike asserts that, “The reason we were successful is because the leadership team is very diverse and understands the power of collaboration.”
Mike’s Pick for Best Media Outlet on Leadership
“I am a huge fan of BBC. They’ve been doing some pieces around diversity as it relates to tech and Silicon Valley firms. After the murder of George Floyd, there were a lot of tech companies publishing statements and being more direct about the issues of diversity and inclusion. It’s important to note that its’ not what needs to get done, but more about what can corporate leaders do differently, to make things better for all.”