George Washington: Creative Director

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George Washington would have been a great creative director. I just finished reading "1776" by David McCullough. It's made me even more thankful that I live in this country. It is obvious that if not for a few small twists of fate the U.S. would never have happened. Actually, the reason these twists went our way was because of Washington's amazing attitude in the face of his overwhelming task. The next time I get down about trying to raise an agency to a higher level I'm going to remember how George won the Revolution.

It seems George had a lot of the same obstacles that small agency leaders have. More important to be sure, but ironically similar.

Bart Cleveland Bart Cleveland
Ill-equipped troops: Many of soldiers of the American army had no shoes and virtually no equipment when they were fighting through the winter of 1776. Many fought battles without muskets. Most were raw recruits with little training and no battle experience. This required Washington to be in the middle of battles fighting alongside his troops. If he had been killed as many of his other officers were, the revolution would have been quickly over in favor of the Brits. Most small agencies have young recruits who share the same traits: a lack of experience, skills that are not honed and a lack of confidence. This requires the leaders of small agencies to be in the thick of jobs, helping the work get done and taking time away from growing the business.

An overwhelming enemy: The British Army and Navy, supplemented with their mercenary Hessians (Germans) should have crushed the American rebellion quickly. Only Washington believed in the cause so much he never quit trying. When the British believed he was on the run he was crossing the Delaware in the middle of Christmas night to take the fight to them. Small budgets, quick deadlines, apprehensive clients all can overwhelm agency leaders. But we have a cause worthy of our most ardent effort: freedom from the conglomerate and all the layers of politics that crush the creative spirit, as well as the prospect of building something of our own. So we must never quit trying. We must believe when others would run away.

Fractures in the ranks: Washington wasn't perfect. He made mistakes and was whipped soundly by the British a number of times. He was most frequently criticized for his indecision. By not making the call quickly enough many times he was left with no alternative but to retreat. This caused his men to waver in their belief in him, especially his officers. One cannot lead an agency if they are indecisive. Washington quickly recovered from his indecisive attitude and his troops regrouped to support him immediately. We agency leaders must also make decisions quickly and live with the consequences. No one follows a leader who doesn't lead.

The most important trait that Washington had that would have made him a great CD was his humility. After his army ran the British out of Boston, Washington asked that the generals who had led the battle lead the troops into the city. Washington quietly showed up the next day to little fanfare. He gave credit where credit was due. That's something agency leaders should also never forget to do.
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