Award-winning Editor; Journalist; Broadcaster; Co-founder of The Men & Boys Coalition
For eight years Martin was the longest-serving editor of Loaded magazine, then gave it up to be a stay-at-home dad.
Martin is now considered the go-to voice on masculinity and men’s issues in the British media.
A columnist for Telegraph Men and a regular contributor to the Sunday Times, Martin is also a hugely experienced broadcaster having fronted Channel 4’s critically-acclaimed Porn On The Brain. He is also a regular (and outspoken) pundit on Sky News, ITV, Channel 5, and the BBC.
As co-founder of The Men & Boys Coalition – a collection of 50+ charities, organisations and individuals who care deeply about men and boys’ needs – he campaigns in Parliament to highlight and tackle issues where the needs of men and boys are unmet, such as boys’ educational under-attainment, men’s mental health requirements, the importance of fathers and the boom in male suicide.
Martin also visits schools where he has spoken with thousands of British teenagers about the potential dangers of online pornography and its role in sexual consent.
Martin, Welcome to the Leadership interview.
How do you start your day?
I’m woken by my two young children, whether I like it or not! Then it’s strong coffee and straight onto Twitter.
As a journalist and activist on men’s issues, it’s the best way to take the temperature of public mood (although only a fool believes Twitter represents how most sane, rational people think).
I will admit, I do like to Tweet provocatively as it’s the ultimate, instant market research for testing ideas. Big response equals traction, and you know you’ve hit the sweet spot.
What was your first job and what is the worst job you’ve ever done?
I worked in my auntie’s lace factory (I’m from Nottingham) for £5 a Saturday from age 13. I saved all my money and bought my first motorbike, which didn’t make me popular with my mum nor my then girlfriend, but then you can’t please everybody, can you?
My worst job was a day in Sydney, aged 20, as a ‘STOP/GO’ man on a building site: literally telling traffic to stop and go past roadworks for eight hours and twirling a road sign with STOP on one side and GO on the other. I had no sun cream in 35-degree heat and a motorist threw a hot dog at me (which got me right on the ear) while called me a “Pommy idiot!”
That was a low point.
What advice would you give to others about furthering their careers?
Think of the employment landscape of the future.
I made it to the very top as a magazine editor only to find the entire industry had been superseded by the internet, which was instant and free.
When people say to me “what’s your best advice to make it as a journalist” I say “don’t be a journalist. Do something low-paid interns or robots cannot replace”.
I think every parent needs to think about this: what will Future Work look like? What should we guide our children towards?
Who inspires you and why?
My all-time hero is Brian Clough: the best football manager England never had. He was an uncompromising genius who said what he saw and didn’t give a hoot if you were offended.
In 2018, where everybody is offended by seemingly everything, we need that spirit more than ever. In Nottingham Forest, he took a small, unfashionable club and became twice champions of Europe.
That story – of a maverick conquering the odds – is the romantic essence of a true leader made human.
Do you think a talent to lead is nature or nurture?
My dad was a coal miner who worked all the hours God sent. That gave me the work ethic. My mum was a housewife who retrained as a teacher when my sister and I had started school.
This gave me the determination to become the first boy to ever get to university in my family.
Self-belief I had hammered into me by no-nonsense male teachers: former military men, often, with a firm hand.
They wouldn’t be able to teach like that now, but a clip round the ear and comments like “stop clowning about, Daubney, you’re the smartest kid in the room” made me see sense.
We need strong male role models in classrooms more than ever, particularly as so many boys now grow up without their dads.
How can a leader fail? Do you have a personal example?
I used to kick back against market research (“I’m not having some kid from Newcastle telling me what makes a great magazine!”) when the truth is, the customer is always king.
You need to learn to take criticism of a product or service not as a personal attack, but a starting point for improvement. I always struggled with that, and it’s a big reason I pulled the ripcord on the corporate world.
I haven’t had a desk job for nine years now and I love being my own boss, although miss the regular pay packet. You can’t have it both ways.
What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
I have an extremely strong character but that can border on domineering.
All good leaders need to be slightly sociopathic, but there’s a fine line. A good deputy, somebody who’s the yin to your yang, is essential here.
I’m a big believer in partnerships, somebody you trust to talk straight to you when you’ve got it wrong.
What do you find most challenging about being a leader?
The twin pulls of managing downwards (your team) and managing upwards (your bosses) became exhausting in the corporate world. I didn’t get into journalism to be a HR manager, but that’s what the role became.
Also, the endless hours in an office, which became a nightmare when I became a dad in 2009. That’s why I jacked in my job as editor of Loaded: the roles of lad and dad were wholly incompatible.
What are you most proud of?
I sold millions of magazines, was once voted a more influential editor than some bloke called Boris Johnson, made a hugely-successful Channel 4 TV show called Porn On The Brain (that looked at porn’s ability to addict (I now talk to thousands of teenagers in schools about this) but I think my greatest achievement is surviving for 25 years in the game.
In journalism, I now specialize on issues that disproportionately affect men and boys, such as poor educational attainment.
That led me to become co-founder of the Men & Boys Coalition, which campaigns on men’s issues and I recently co-wrote the UK’s biggest-ever academic study into British men’s mental well-being, called the Harry’s Masculinity Report.
Last November I presented the findings in Parliament to mark International Men’s Day (I’m a UK ambassador for that).
I never thought a coal miner’s son from Nottingham would get to speak in Parliament
I was brought up to believe that government was for other people, who were better than me. It felt amazing to stand there and think, “No, I can do this, too”. But my biggest motivator is providing for my family. There’s no better feeling than knowing your family are safe and provided for, and I’ve got my dad to thank for laying that fundamental cornerstone of what I feel it is to be a man.
What’s your biggest self- indulgence?
Motorbikes. I was meant to have stopped riding when I became a dad, and I’ve had nine years off. But I’m currently restoring a Yamaha 350 LC that’s been sat rotting for 19 years – a hooligan bike from my youth.
Once again, the missus isn’t very happy. There’s a theme emerging here, isn’t there? Haha!
Follow Martin on Twitter
If it is of interest, Mind Over Matter Consultancy delivers a range of interactive, highly-pressurized programmes for high performers in companies across the world, underpinned by applied leadership and management theory. These are lead by experts in their fields.
We are able to support the following areas:
- Talent Identification
- Decision Making
- Problem Solving
Try our bespoke #BlowYouAwayDays programmes where you and your team will be pushed to the limit in anything from RNLI training or kidnap scenarios to dance development, a rollercoaster crash, a grand prix circuit or the SAS.