Are You Paying the Price of Leadership?

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In 1915, Cadillac, which had previously stressed its dependability, suffered quality problems with its V8 Touring model. Rival Packard was quick to jump on the numerous defects attacking the Cadillac brand image. Cadillac marketing man Theodore MacManus responded with a simple print ad called “The Penalty of Leadership”. The ad ran only once, in the January 2, 1915 Saturday Evening Post, and never mentioned Cadillac by name. It might surprise you that 30 years later, in 1945, it was voted the best ad of all time by the industry. As recently as 1998, Advertising Age ranked it 49th out of the top 100 all time ad campaigns. The text of this advertisement follows:

The Penalty of Leadership

“In every field of human endeavor, he that is first must perpetually live in the white light of publicity. Whether the leadership be vested in a man or in a manufactured product, emulation and envy are ever at work. In art, in literature, in music, in industry, the reward and the punishment are always the same. The reward is widespread recognition; the punishment, fierce denial and detraction. When a man’s work becomes a standard for the whole world, it also becomes a target for the shafts of the envious few. If his work be merely mediocre, he will be left severely alone – if he achieves a masterpiece, it will set a million tongues a-wagging. Jealousy does not protrude its forked tongue at the artist who produces a commonplace painting. Whatsoever you write, or paint, or play, or sing, or build, no one will strive to surpass or to slander you, unless your work be stamped with the seal of genius. Long, long after a great work or a good work has been done; those who are disappointed or envious continue to cry out that it cannot be done. Spiteful little voices in the domain of art were raised against our own Whistler as a mountebank, long after the big world had acclaimed him its greatest genius. Multitudes flocked to worship at the shrine of Wagner, while the little group of those whom he had dethroned and displaced argued angrily that he was no musician at all. The little world continued to protest that Fulton could not build a steamboat, while the big world flocked to the river to see his boat steam by. The leader is assailed because he is the leader, and the effort to equal him is merely added proof of that leadership. Failing to equal or to excel, the follower seeks to depreciate and to destroy – but only confirms once more the superiority of that which he strives to supplant. There is nothing new in this. It is as old as the world and as old as the human passions – envy, fear, greed, ambition, and the desire to surpass. And it all avails nothing. If the leader truly leads, he remains – the leader. Master-poet, master-painter, master-workman, each in his turn is assailed, and each holds his laurels through the ages. That which is good or great makes itself known, no matter how loud the clamor of denial. That which deserves to live – lives.”

Mr. MacManus’ thoughts are profound and inspirational because his message resonates at the individual level. It’s a tough road to the top though, and not many people (or organizations) achieve the top ranking. Are you willing to pay the price of leadership this year? Recent economic headlines suggest that the world could use a leader right now – so don’t worry about the penalty.

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Alan See
Alan See is Principal and Chief Marketing Officer of CMO Temps, LLC. He is the American Marketing Association Marketer of the Year for Content Marketing and recognized as one of the "Top 50 Most Influential CMO's on Social Media" by Forbes. Alan is an active blogger and frequent presenter on topics that help organizations develop marketing strategies and sales initiatives to power profitable growth. Alan holds BBA and MBA degrees from Abilene Christian University.

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