We are all amid tragic times. All of us would have a hundred stories in the past year which would have taught us a thing or two or ten - from gloomy tales of despair to deep hurt of betrayal, of the world around us failing. Enough anger is felt and displayed at the sheer unfairness of it all. It is difficult to find ways to overcome all this, but life has repeatedly taught us that we can overcome and move on. From the most anguishing personal grief to the more mundane professional loss. In an almost cathartic manner, somehow, we know that this too shall pass. We will start over, have a new sense of new and that is our biggest strength.
How will we start over? In life, relationships, friendships and perhaps even at work? Once we can adapt to the new, how will life be? Will it be how it used to be, or will we have the courage to look at the past and start anew, afresh? Courage to retrospect, relook at the usual and most importantly, question oneself. Also, the courage to support genuinely new ways of thinking (and please, give a break to much battered words like innovation and ‘new normal’).
WE HAVE MOVED ON
For years, one has been a big advocate of routine, the safety net of the system and championed the concept of toeing the line and following protocol. Essentially, I was a huge supporter of systems and processes. Like most people, I too had my reasons. It’s not the agencies or companies that were at fault, but the so-called captains of such ships who had turned these places into a dull and dreary mess, forgetting the original ideas and creativity centres that were supposed to be at the core of the agency business. Life and work kept moving on till the pandemic hit. Suddenly, all these processes, management mantras and ways of working got punched in the face, and the work world, as all of us knew it, completely re-arranged itself. Bravely and proudly, work happened. We adapted, we moved on, we fought back. The only point in all this is, what is the learning and what will be the new definition of the industry captains or vice-captains or all the players going forward.
THE NEW HEROES
If we look around, new heroes have emerged - individuals, professionals, corporates, social welfare and even politicians. Our healthcare workers, doctors, teachers, support infrastructure workers, shop-keepers, public transport systems and staff and many such have come to show us that all that we take for granted and show little appreciation to, are the ones that deserve our gratitude. Another lot, our young children who are bravely combating this worldwide abnormality but have proven amazing zeal and adaptability, are ones to learn from. Our elderly, in their sunset hours, are putting on a brave face and encouraging us to keep the faith. They all are teaching us particularly important lessons about courage. About walking the talk and dealing with the new.
So, what kind of leaders will shape the agency ecosystem from here on? A leader who is not threatened by talent, who champions inclusion of all and not indulge in tokenism because it’s in his/her MBOs, who stays true to the heart of the business of creativity and business solutions. We have also seen that there are many brave ones who have adapted, who listen, collaborate and are genuinely talented and helping agencies redefine. Leaders who are kind, supportive and team players. Very few such people exist. But it is time for leaders to heed that wake-up call. People have changed, priorities have changed, and way of working most certainly has changed. Few people are interested in megalomaniacs. So, toeing the line and hiding behind so-called protocol is outdated. The business should reclaim its positioning of being the ideas business and let go of its prejudices.
SHOW REAL COURAGE
It is time to show some real courage, give the industry a facelift and bring forward some heroes of our own. Learn from the real brave ones that the most important part of being a hero is to stay real. To give, support and help people who really need it. Appreciate and encourage. Most importantly, be meaningful. Enough time has been wasted being shallow. We have very recently seen that time is truly a precious commodity. As someone recently observed, it’s truly liberating to change. Go on, try it.
(The author is an independent brand curator, coach and consultant)