Searching for Good Leadership

I spent the 1990s wanting to be Alison Parker. Jet setting around Los Angeles, living at Melrose Place with my friends, working for Amanda Woodward at D+D Advertising. Those were impressionable years. I had a rose-colored outlook that being in Account at an ad agency meant I would be leading a fancy and glamorous life. And maybe, just maybe, I’d get to date Billy Campbell.

Fast forward several decades and I have a more realistic view about Account. I now know that the day in and day out isn’t glamorous. That we are often overlooked and undervalued by colleagues. We’re seen as paper pushers, yes-men (and women) and dream crushers. That some people truly believe our sole purpose is to suck the fun out of life. We’re essentially the pariahs of the agency world. But the perception, often predicated by outdated and unusual department names, isn’t what’s true.

Fun SuckerOur job is truly the best in the agency because we get to participate in all aspects of the business from strategy to comms, from creative to analytics. We get to touch everything. And we are not the boring and uninspiring workhorses for “Account Management” and “Account Service” departments. Nor are we the unpredictable and confusing champions of “Content Teams” and “Integration Departments.” We don’t service or manage or integrate. We lead. And great account leaders deliver in three fundamental ways:

  1. Unmatched business expertise. It all starts with a foundation of knowledge and understanding. About our industry, our client's business and culture. We dive in, absorbing all the information available until we're able to take all of this understanding and develop a creative solution for any problem.
  2. Passionate problem solving. Account Leaders love a good challenge. We thrive on rolling up our sleeves and getting to the heart of the problem. We are continually identifying the best resources and team to get the job done. And not just done and off our plate, but done with love for the process and pride in our product.
  3. Championing Momentum. We are always leading the charge. Account Leaders oversee it all from the moment the project comes through the door to the second when the last results are reported. We are there every step of the way and our contagious excitement and boundless energy sets the tone for the entire team. We guide others to do their very best each and every day by being the shining example.

What I have come to understand over time is that it isn’t about a department name or a stereotypical role, it’s really about what you do day after day. So let’s be real and honest about who we are and what we do. Let’s be keenly focused on delivering on the fundamentals. Let’s be great partners to our clients and our teammates. Let’s show our colleagues that we’re just as passionate about great work. Let’s jump through hoops to sell through the right solution. After all, we’re Account Leaders.

Ainslie Fortune is the VP of Account Leadership at Cactus. Find her on our About page and check out some of the latest work from her and her team here. Like what you're reading and want to work for Ainslie? We're hiring an Account Manager to join the team.