Diane Brady has written a very interesting BusinessWeek article (March 29 issue) about Ann Fudge. Ann recently became the CEO of Young & Rubicam, after spending a couple of years in retirement journaling, cycling, traveling, serving on boards and spending time with her family. What stood out in the article was this: a lot of grumbling and whining from the folks at Y&R that Ann may not be the right person for the job because she retired. She took a few years off, so she must not be relentless enough to run their company. Brady writes that in our culture "... leaving is a sign of weakness, a sometimes unforgivable lack of ambition." She adds that, "A surprising number doubt -- quietly for now, anyway -- that a woman who openly hugs fellow execs and values her life beyond the workplace can raise Y&R to new creative and financial heights. As one senior executive puts it: 'I just don't know if someone who can spend months on a bicycle has the 24/7 drive we need.'"
It seems many marketers still cling to the mindset that the only way to be a great marketer is to show up every morning at 7am, leave no earlier than 7pm, never take vacation and grind oneself into dust. I'm not sure how that would lead to creativity or good ideas, but what do I know? It seems to me that it takes a very old-school masculine view to think that hugs and time off make someone unable to lead a company.
I think being a decent marketer means being a well-rounded person who takes the time to be out of the office in the world with regular people. I've seen people put the work ethic into overdrive and end up coming up with pretty lackluster ideas because they don't do anything that's not work-related anymore. Creativity comes from being open to a wide range of inputs, not from sitting in an office. Ihankfully more and more men and women are no longer buying into these old, narrow-minded ideas. I just hope the people at Y&R will give Ann a chance.