Babita’s Blog: When giants can create dwarfs

Babita Baruah, executive business director, JWT, wonders whether the industry is ensuring that those who can take over the mantle and the hat are being mentored

Oct 03, 2012 01:14:00 PM | Article | Babita Baruah


This is inevitable when the shadows of personality giants loom so large that they overshadow and swallow up the rest of the lot like an eclipse.

I am talking about the industry I love and have been part of for close to two decades now.

We seem to be scouting for people all the time. Good people.

Recruiting takes ages. We meet candidates over coffee and in boardrooms. For the lucky lot, maybe an overseas flight and back as well for an interview.

Yet, the giants seem to be lonely at the top. Across disciplines. Account Management. Planning. Creative.

Is it truly a case of much lower remuneration and therefore a strong exodus out of the industry? Which is definitely one reason.

But,  is it also something else that may be lurking around?

That David Ogilvy spotted years ago when he said,  If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. But if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants.” 

Words of wisdom which are so relevant today.

Some of the oft heard remarks on recruits.

“She may not be able to handle ops and late night”. Excuse me. A job profile cannot be about ops and late nights.

 Just hire someone- the client calls us every day on the fee”. True. But if the client knows that FTEs are just excel sheet tickboxes, he will think twice.

“The young  teams are the brightest. Let them handle the business.” Absolutely. But what about the team that heads the group, who also have quite a bit of metal and ability to do great work, only if they had the support. And are required on big businesses.

For an industry where only teamwork can create the best ideas, some of us  still give bytes and interviews and claim “my work”, “my idea”. Maybe that’s the truth. But then, are we also ensuring that we are mentoring people who can take over the mantle and the hat? After all, we won’t be here forever.

Let’s face it. Are we truly hiring the best out there? Are we really recognising people who can take over from us, or do we get threatened at times?

Do we, especially as we go up the step ladder of hierarchy and achievement, look at those reporting to us as someone who will “work for us” rather than “ work for the organisation”?

Do we hire for the future or get hands and legs to manage the present?

How many of us are so confident that every time we recognise a bright second in command, we let go?

We can name the bold and the famous  around us in ten seconds. I bet we do not even know who are the next in line, in most of the cases. Either there are so many eligible that no one stands out, which is good for us. Or we do not want another shadow overshadowing us before our time is out. Which is not so good for us at all.

Clients are starving for talent.

We are starving for talent.

This is a nation of talent.

And if we leave the remuneration factor aside for a moment, we will see there are still a lot of minds  and hearts out there, waiting to make a mark in this space.

We just need to let go. And create the next lot of giants.

The views expressed are the author's independent views as an ad professional and do not reflect the organisation's viewpoint.