Every suit thinks he is creative. Especially suits who have risen to the top of an ad agency and therefore no longer considers himself bound by the confines of a department. So most suit CEOs don’t understand what the debate is about – you need to be creative and a suit to be the leader. ☺
Of course, the biggest trait you need to become a leader is to live in a distorted reality world and convince enough other people to believe in that distorted reality. It’s usually called “Vision” which is nothing but an attempt to twist the current reality into a desired one. If you are successful, you are a great leader. If not, you are considered a cracked pot.
The best leaders in every field lived in a distorted reality world. Buddha, Christ, Mahatma Gandhi, Steve Jobs, Ratan Tata, Barrack Obama, Piyush Pandey. All of them set out to change their existing realities in ways that perfectly reasonable people thought couldn’t be done. Who thought that India could achieve freedom thorough non-violence or that a black man could become President of the United States or that a stodgy old “people-friendly” advertising agency could become a cutting edge creative shop?
At this point, it would probably be appropriate to list out a set of traits that a good leader should have. I am going to resist the temptation.
I read a book some time ago called “Why should anyone be led by YOU?” This is the best book on leadership that I have ever read. It simply says that you can’t model yourself on any other person and still expect to be a leader. To be a leader you have to be yourself; to be authentic and real. Even have warts and weaknesses. If people like what they see, they will start to follow you.
I found this a really refreshing argument, because so many leaders fall into the trap of trying to be perfect. Leaders try to be this brilliant all rounder who could be in the team just for his batting, bowling or fielding. Not to mention his captaincy. This kind of a leader gets insecure when others appear who are better than him in any discipline. And that puts off a whole lot of followers, who tend to drift away. Thus damaging the organization.
Coming back to the central point of the debate of suit versus creative. The point I am making is that you need to be authentic and have a clear vision. If the suit is a faceless bureaucrat then he is unlikely to get any followers and therefore will not be able to achieve much.
(This piece was written for the 5th anniversary issue of Impact magazine)