Leadership in Advertising – What I Learned about Being a Leader


Jon White

April 3, 2017

I recently had the humbling opportunity to be a mentor to an aspiring university student. As we sat in our introductory meeting, his first question was straight to the point: “What have you learned about being a Leader?” Over my 19 year career in the advertising industry, here are the top four takeaways on what leadership in advertising looks like.

Don’t Be the Smartest Person in the Room

Being a leader does not mean knowing more than anyone else. But being “smart” is so much more. Smart people are also compassionate, imaginative, humble, and appreciative. Pace yourself and share your ideas.

Don’t Fear the Feedback

Feedback never ends throughout your career. It starts at university and doesn’t stop until you retire, if you’re lucky! The several types of feedback: assessment, criticism, evaluation, observation, and rejection. The first part of our brain that receives this feedback is our croc brain. The croc loves compliments and hates criticism. According to the croc, you can never do wrong and everything you do and say is incredible. That is the farthest from the truth. It’s how you react to feedback that will determine your success. Success with your clients, coworkers, and bosses. Embrace feedback, never get enough of it. Learn from it.

Never Stop Improving

In our industry, if you become stale or rest on your laurels, it is imminent, you will be passed up. Technology and trends are ever evolving. The book on how to market a product or brand is constantly being rewritten. Whether an individual or an agency, you should suffer from FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). FOMO keeps you on your toes. You become more of an asset and bring more value to the agency, to your team and to your clients.

Be the Shepherd not the Lion

I have met many Shepherds and an equal amount of Lions in my career. The Shepherds were the ones who pushed, encouraged, supported and believed in my abilities and aspirations. Yes, at times, they were harsh, demanding, frustrating but equally forgiving and constantly educating. Shepherds want to see you succeed because they know it’s also their success to celebrate as well. The Lions are selfish, destructive, and uncooperative. They scare fellow employees and the clients. “I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.” –Alexander the Great

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