Learning from the Greats

david-sableBusiness mythology is largely a series of prevarications designed to elevate individual genius over systemic factors in success.  The idea is that a person of singular genius and vision creates and the rest of us do his bidding (“his” because most myths are about men.)

Yet the reality is that those of us with even a modicum of success owe so much of that to others.  In my case, my parents gave me not only the gift of skepticism but the economic means to be a vagabond who wandered aimlessly until marketing found him.

And then there were those folks from whom I learned a ton in business.  A few come to mind, many of whom were senior to me during my stint at Microsoft.  A few stand out, however, simply because they were “external” to my role and yet equally supportive.  One of these people is David Sable, CEO of Y&R, an amazing advertising and marketing agency.

David’s top quality is his humanity followed closely by intelligence and wit, but what makes him more amazing is his both his empathy and his complexity.  David defies easy characterization and cannot be put in a box.

Great leaders are flexible.  Great leaders are decent.  Great leaders actually care about doing well by others.

These factors disqualify so many from the mantle of greatness.  The usual suspects are rarely decent and rarely caring.  They also are lauded for their stubbornness.  To the victors go the spoils.  To the stubborn folks who win goes the adulation.  The stubborn folks who lose are called, well, stubborn.

Keeping score with money or title is a pathetic exercise based on pathetic measures.

Challenge yourself to find someone truly great to follow in business.  Do it now.

Romi Mahajan is a marketer, author, and investor and advises a variety of companies, including promising technology startups.

About Romi Mahajan

Romi Mahajan is a globally-renowned marketer, IT and strategy thinker, and author.

His career is a storied one, including spending 9 years at Microsoft, being the first CMO of Ascentium, a leading digital agency, and founding the KKM Group, a boutique advisory firm focused on strategy and marketing. Romi has also authored two books on marketing: most recently, "To Thine Own Self: Honesty in Marketing".

A prolific writer and speaker, Mahajan lives in Bellevue, WA, with his wife and two kids.

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