Gary Knell, Chairman of National Geographic Partners, a global JV between Disney and the National Geographic Society, which includes TV, print, digital assets, and travel and consumer products. Under him, Nat Geo has expanded its reach and gained 102 million-plus Instagram followers. Now, it is adding nearly 1,00,000 followers a day. Earlier this year, the company launched in India its global expeditions business called National Geographic Expeditions.
Q. The biggest challenge you faced in your career
A. It was when I was pulling together the reorganisation of National Geographic with 21st Century Fox. The challenge lay in reinventing the entire enterprise into two separate entities - a not-for-profit business and a media company. Pulling it off in a way so that people would understand and employees would not freak out was tough, but we did it right.
Q. Your best teacher in business
A. We all had mentors who helped us along the way and took chances on us, and they are the people I will never forget. They are disruptive and help you disrupt yourself before someone else did it. Much like them, I want to promote excellence because companies must accomplish their missions. Whether it was Sesame Street for preschool children, National Public Radio providing global news or National Geographic focussing on a set of issues affecting the planet, there was always a sense of urgency, and I was hired to help these companies.
Q. One key management lesson for young people
A. I have always focussed on getting things done as focussing on the mission is the core of leadership. It is really about breaking down the walls which get built up over time. It could be an editorial group stuck in the past, a marketing group not connecting to consumers or a wrong technology. I think people who get things done are those who move up because people want to be around them. So, be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
Q. What are the three qualities a leader must have?
A. Be part of the solution. Be disruptive. Be somebody who thinks out of the box. And challenge things. Such people make the world go round.
"Be part of the solution. Be disruptive. Be somebody who thinks out of the box. And challenge things. such people make the world go round."