Content Marketing Icon Ann Handley on Leadership & Inspiration

Inspiration is the fuel that drives motivation. In order to create anything truly great, you must first be inspired.

The digital world that we all now live is often focused on tangible, quantifiable metrics, but none of those metrics even come close to realization without inspiration.

In our business, we continually look to successful, invigorating individuals who inspire us in order to see how we can learn from their expertise and experiences.

Recently we were able to converse one of these edifying individuals, Ann Handley.

Ann is the author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller “Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content” (September 2014, Wiley) and co-author of the best-selling book on content marketing, “Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business” (2011, Wiley).

A member of the Linked-in influencer program Ann is one of the top digital marketing influencers in the world, and has been cited in Forbes as one of the top 20 women social media influencers. A true pioneer in digital marketing, Ann also helped to co-founder of, one of the first sources of interactive marketing news and commentary as well as being a successful journalist, editor and mom.

Quite simply put, Ann is amazing and one of the exemplary figures in the digital marketing community. It was a real honor for her to take the time to answer a few questions for us.

1. What’s the most important trait that influential leaders should possess? 

Accountability – To be a trusted leader, you have to first be trusted. That means you need to do what you say you’ll do (and you’ll do it well). It means you’re accountable to your team.

The idea of being “accountable” to direct reports might seem counter to the boss-employee relationship, but it’s not.

“Leadership” requires you to set a good example, especially on follow-through, [and] in that way, it’s a lot like parenting, but without the lifelong cash outlay.

2. Who has influenced you most as a leader?

My dad, for his work ethic.

My Uncle Frank, an old-time newspaper guy who first put the idea in my 6-year-old head that I could be a writer, as a job.

Sean Gresh, a professor in my college communications class, who reinforced in me the truth that those who learn to write well will be successful at whatever they choose to do.

Nena Groskind, my first boss at my first job a long time ago at Warren Publishing. It’s only a decade or two later that I realize how wonderful a role model she was, because she invested a lot of time in nurturing my (sometimes idiotic) 20-year-old professional self.

3. Does failure contribute or prevent you from succeeding? 

I always learn something from a failure. Failure isn’t a detour as much as it is part of the journey. Sheesh that sounds hopelessly like a badly written greeting card. But it’s true.

4. What’s the most important part of your job?

The most important part of my job is to remember that (ultimately) relationships matter more than anything.

5. What’s your favorite inspirational quote? 

I have two:

“The reader doesn’t turn the page because of a hunger to applaud.” — writing teacher Don Murray

“A writer always tries … to be part of the solution, to understand a little about life and to pass this on.” — Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird)