Linda Yaccarino Calls on Industry To Build ‘Culture of Service’

Scott Turner (President of CEOC, of which Linda is the Chairman of the Board), Shelley Zallis, CEO of the TFQ – they were both Linda’s Toasters. Linda Yaccarino and Claudio Madrazzo (Linda’s Husband)
Linda Yaccarino (second from l.) with CEOC President Scott Turner; Shelley Zallis, CEO of TFQ; and Claudio Madrazzo (Yaccarino's husband) at the She Runs It event in New York. (Image credit: NBCUniversal)

Linda Yaccarino, chairman of NBCUniversal global advertising and partnerships, is calling on the industry to increase its public-service efforts.

Yaccarino was among the honorees at the annual She Runs It (opens in new tab) Woman of the Year Gala Wednesday night. “You all make the world around you better. You inspire me to be better—and to serve others,” she said. “I believe we all have the power and the responsibility to do the same — and build a culture of service.”

Tuesday night, Yaccarino hosted an event launching The98 (opens in new tab), an early-stage fund designed to provide resources for technology startups led by women — an example of how business leaders can set the tone and be more supportive.

Yaccarino said that service was ingrained in her early by her parents, who were both public servants.

“As a mother and — I know this is very hard to believe — as a brand new grandmother, my job is to serve my family,“ she said. ”As an employee, my job is to serve the company and all of the people who depend on me. And as a leader, it’s easy to think that you’re now the person being served. But if you are lucky enough to be in a position of leadership, you’re actually in a better position to serve — your employees, your colleagues, your clients, your partners, your community.”

NBCU recently launched Open Doors: Where Small Businesses Thrive, a program that supports diverse, small businesses by providing access to marketing and advertising resources to help spur and sustain growth. 

NBCU also works with Upwardly Global (opens in new tab), a workforce-development organization for professional immigrants and refugees in the U.S., as part of its efforts to expand its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion internally and externally.

“No matter who you are, or where you sit, it’s up to us to build this culture of service together,” Yaccarino said. 

She said a culture of service is based on principles of empathy, unity and courage.

“I remember when empathy was considered a personality trait solely ascribed to female leaders — one that, I was told, more than once, ‘Linda, it’s going to hold you back,‘ ” she said. “But now? It’s become one of the most sought-after traits for all leaders, because to really serve someone, you must understand what they are going through. And that takes work.” 

Although businesses compete, there are times when it is better for industries to come together and pool their resources, she said, pointing to how the Ad Council tackles issues like the COVID-19 pandemic.

As chair of the Ad Council, Yaccarino saw first-hand how companies could come together and “donated time and resources to make sure people across the country had the information they needed.”

Finally, she said, creating a culture of service requires the courage to act, even if it means putting ourselves at risk.

“It takes courage to ask others to brave,” she said. “Brave enough to extend your hand across the aisle, especially when everybody’s got their arms crossed. Because they can’t keep their arms crossed if they’re shaking your hand. 

Yaccarino challenged business leaders to put in the effort to have empathy, unity and courage and commit to service.

“I promise you, if you accept that challenge, and build this culture, I’ll be the first person in your corner,” she said.  ■

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.