I saw an interview recently with the French footballer Michel Platini.
(He was the French equivalent of Bobby Moore.)
The interviewer referred to him as a ‘midfield general’.
Platini was outraged, in French.
“How dare you call me that.” read the subtitles.
“Do you think I sit at the back and do nothing except direct others, like a General?” he carried on.
“I control the game from the middle, I am involved in every move.”
“What would you call yourself?” stammered the interviewer.
“A sergeant.” said Platini proudly.
A similar sentiment was expressed by Napoleon:
“Generals don’t win wars. Sergeants win wars.”
He should know.
You see generals, and other officers, usually went to military school.
They have a piece of paper that says they’ve passed the tests.
Sergeants haven’t got that.
Sergeants have worked their way up from the lowest rank.
When a sergeant talks to you, he’s not talking theory like an officer.
He’s done whatever he’s asking you to do.
A sergeant has to be able to make 30 men do what he says.
They’ll do it because they trust him.
For me, a creative director is like that.
The officers (account men, planners, clients) give you an objective.
You’ve got to go back to the troops (the creative department) and work out how to do it.
You don’t just do a massive mind-dump of all the problems.
(This causes creative paralysis through information overload.)
As a creative director you tell everyone what bit they need to do.
So everyone can give 100% to their own job.
Instead of worrying about everyone else’s.
The best example I saw of this was in the film Zulu.
3,000 Zulus are attacking 100 British troops.
The soldiers stand still, waiting, looking along their rifles.
One young lad starts shaking.
“Christ, there’s thousands of them. What are we gonna do?”
The sergeant puts his mouth next to the squaddie’s ear.
“Don’t you worry about them, son. You just worry about me.” he says quietly but firmly.
That’s a creative director.
Don’t you worry about the client, the account man, the planner, the research groups, the dozens of things that make this look impossible.
You just do the absolute best possible job you can.
You let the creative director worry about the rest.