A true leader is one who inspires loyalty with no regard to rank or position.
David Ogilvy, the vaunted “Father of Advertising” and legend among the marketing community, has surely earned the designation of leader. While his true cunning lay in the craft of copywriting, throughout his book Confessions of an Advertising Man you will find deep insights on management, candor, and company culture.
The care he put into making every word matter for his campaigns mirrors his attention to detail in how he ran his company. For Ogilvy, many of his finest learnings on management came from an early job working as a chef in Paris. His experiences there would later establish the principles that were embedded in the Ogilvy & Mather agency:
Thirty years ago I was a chef at the Hotel Majestic in Paris. Henri Soule of the Pavillon tells me that it was probably the best kitchen there has ever been.
Every man jack was inspired by one ambition: to cook better than any chef had ever cooked before. Our esprit de corps would have done credit to the Marines.
I have always believed that if I could understand how Monsieur Pitard, the head chef, inspired such white-hot morale, I could apply the same kind of leadership to the management of my advertising agency.
By any standard, it seems that during his tenure as “Monsieur” of an advertising agency, he succeeded. Below are some of his prudent and often contrarian takes on how an organization should be run.
On Keeping Praise Sacred
Top-shelf words can begin to lose their meaning when applied inappropriately—for instance, it seems everything is mind blowing on the web of lies.
One humorous example that I’m consistently reminded of is the American tendency to use the word “awesome” in mundane situations. My cousin from Italy is fond of ribbing us for this: “Everything in America is ‘awesome.’ That hamburger was awesome, this weather is awesome—why don’t you say it is nice?”
He’s teasing, but the literal definition of awesome, “inspiring an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, or fear,” clearly shows that its modern usage has left it with a tamer meaning.
Praise, Ogilvy argued, can suffer from the same type of dilution. At the Hotel Majestic, coming across words of praise was just uncommon enough to make each instance a momentous occasion.