There are cowards everywhere, of course. In every industry.
You’d have perhaps thought there might be fewer in an industry that requires creative leadership.
But it turns out that this isn’t the case. Au contraire, in fact.
I once worked for a coward. He was a marketer, a ‘creative’ in fact, and he just couldn’t take decisions.
As a result, his agency became a festering pit of the juvenile politics of ego. A court, per Machiavelli’s Prince, but where everyone ends up playing the jester. This tedious situation was compounded by the fact that, disgracefully, it was all so obvious to both the agency’s junior staff and clients.
Not cool. But, more to the point, not necessary either.
Taking decisions as a leader, perhaps especially a marketing leader, is the job.
If you can’t take decisions then you are in the wrong job. This is doubly so if that job is in marketing where someone, ultimately, needs to back an idea and then rally the world, internal and external, around it.
A chap called Marcus Buckingham, in his book, The One Thing You Need To Know, argues that the number one priority of leaders should be to offer clarity. For him, leaders have a duty to set out beyond a shadow of a doubt where they stand, and what they will or will not tolerate.
This duty of clarity is so acute, says Buckingham, because it is what those being led want. They want this, he asserts, more than they want anything else at all – including liking or agreeing with whatever is being said.
In this thinking, he is in good company. Earlier this year, I read Boris’ brilliant biography of Churchill.
One of the (many) striking things about our wartime Prime Minister was the extent to which he was ready to make decisions; especially the hard ones.
The Mayor of London rates this characteristic very highly: I remember some years ago, in a wide-ranging interview he gave to the Evening Standard, he himself was quoted as saying:
“People don’t care what decision you make, they just bloody well want a decision”
Take a second to consider the most effective leader you can think of – business, political, even social. Is that person clear?
Indeed, would you go so far as to say that being clear – even when that clarity drives you crazy – is one of their defining characteristics?
In making and implementing clear decisions, one way or another, leaders set the agenda. Especially when it comes to marketing. It may not be an agenda that others like, but at least it gives them something to react to.
Even die-hard opponents of an idea ultimately tend to want a clear decision: it gives them something tangible to be “against”. Take a decision, good or bad, and one way or another you set the agenda.
Dither, and watch others set your agenda for you.
Fear is leadership’s sworn enemy.
And creativity’s kryptonite.
– this piece first published by The Marketing Society