Below the Belt: On the record

In a downturn, agencies inevitably have a preoccupation with costs, margins and profitability. But agencies need more than a focus on money - they need vision.

Being a visionary leader is neither simple nor automatically accepted by those who must make that vision a reality. "Visionaries are constantly fighting conventional wisdom because they see the world ahead in terms of what it can be if someone is willing to look at things in very different ways." So said John Sculley, the former head of Pepsi and Apple Computers. He also said: "Successful marketing cannot be reduced to a set of quantitative skills or measurements. While such skills may reduce the risks of making a big mistake, they are a poor substitute for true creative vision."

A large part of leadership is actually possessing and selling a vision.

The leader needs a vision of where they plan to take the firm and the ability to dramatise that vision for their workers. Good leaders know their business can only be effective if everyone is moving towards the same vision.

Few people have described the feelings of having a compelling vision for the future better than McDonald's founder Ray Kroc. Visiting a drive-in restaurant owned by the McDonald brothers in California, he became fascinated by their mechanised approach to delivering a limited selection of foods to customers quickly, and entered into a partnership with them in 1954. The road to fame and fortune was a bumpy one, but Kroc said he was able to persevere because the vision for the fast food business remained etched indelibly on his heart.

Speaking of the responsibilities of the visionary leader, marketing guru Theodore Levitt notes: "He has to know where he wants to go and make sure the whole organisation is aware of where that is ... unless he knows where he's going, any road will take him there."


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