Like all industries, the agency world was not left unscathed by the catastrophic year 2020. Agencies big and small had to learn how to serve their clients, pitch new business and create engaging new work, all from the comfort of their homes. Not an easy task, to be sure, but most of them figured it out, and in the process learned much about themselves and their clients.
But as I look back on 2020, perhaps the most valuable lessons learned stemmed from agencies that found themselves in hot water when their leaders got into serious trouble. The list was distressingly long: JWT, Droga5, The Martin Agency, Mindshare, Ogilvy, BBDO and The Richards Group.
What can be learned from the mistakes these agency executives made? What explains how such otherwise smart, successful leaders could exhibit such abuse of power, poor judgement, and what-were-you-thinking disregard for colleagues?
The answer, in part, lies in an oversupply of arrogance, entitlement, and narcissism from people who feel they are impervious to criticism and indispensable to the marketplace. Ultimately, a short supply of basic values like humility, empathy, integrity and a moral compass has brought the industry to this moment of reckoning.
Yes, leadership can be a challenging, frustrating, and stressful undertaking. But it can also be highly rewarding both personally and financially. It’s an honor and privilege that should never be taken for granted. Yet, too often, it is.