The Center for Creative Leadership posted this piece:  Image Busters:   Eight Common Leader Mistakes, and it brought to mind a question:   How many of the “leadership mistakes” mentioned in the post might be unintentionally undermining the great talents that agencies possess?

So in that spirit-here are the mistakes/traits from the original post, and then underneath each, my agency new business spin, with approaches intended to foster solid relationships with current clients as well as good engagement with prospects.

leadership mistakes

1) Too much seriousness: In our industry professionalism is certainly important, but being too reserved can be interpreted negatively, from uncaring to arrogant.  A smile, graciousness and appropriate humor can put people at ease, and exhibit that you can handle pressure, all the while reinforcing respect.

2) Weak speaking skills: Communication is at the heart of our world; we’d all like to think our expertise in delivering the message to the target audience for the response we desire would carry over and have us all great speakers.  Pay attention to how you speak in all situations – one-on-one, small group meetings, large audience presentations – with good inflection, diction and use of volume.

3) Lack of clarity: We deal with it all the time: jargon, fluff, “mumbo jumbo”.   Clarity of thought and message will keep existing clients engaged and will have prospects impressed.  Be clear and focused on who your organization is and what you are best at doing.  Be specific, concise and direct.
4) Self-absorption: In an industry as inherently creative and smart as ours, it is easy to fall into being impressed with ourselves (was THAT a self-absorbed statement?!).   Clients and prospects want and deserve to feel in charge.  It really IS all about them.  Even if something is your idea, remember that the ultimate objectives are larger than yourself.   Share the stage gracefully with the entire team.

5) Lack of interest: Passion is a force that commands and enthuses.  Even if you are a “laid-back” personality, call out your excitement for the challenge at hand.  I once worked with someone who was the epitome of mellow.  To let people know he was really excited, he would assure them, “I am jumping up and down inside”.   Let your passion show –in action or in words, and ideally through both!
6) Obvious discomfort: Some of us feel born to be behind the scenes.   Center stage can be very uncomfortable.   Tough.  Discomfort in a crowd or in conversation can lead people to doubt you.  To fire up our clients and keep their confidence and to engage prospects, it’s necessary to learn how to set discomfort aside, and let your capability and expertise shine through.
7) Inconsistency: This sounds almost too obvious, but reliability is critical to building and reinforcing relationships.  Do what you say you will do, and do it the best way you can.  Require this of your team too.  Consistency builds confidence, trust and respect – all part of the foundation for long-term, mutually beneficial agency-client relationships.

8) Defensiveness: A lot of hours and work go into proposals, recommendations, concepts, campaigns and more.  Questions inevitably come up.  When they do, explaining thought processes is different that becoming defensive.  Staying open to the discussion and evolving ideas has potential to enhance already solid thinking.

Some of these mistakes can seem very elementary, but take a good honest look at yourself and your team.

leadership mistakes

How do your clients and prospects perceive what you do and say?

Our clients are great at what they do as marketers.

More than one has asked us to counsel and coach in some of these exact areas.

You ARE a leader – in your organization, as regarded by clients, current and future, and in your industry and community.

Becoming aware of habits that may be mistakes is a great first step to building greater success.

I'm the VP of Sales at RSW/US. We specialize in working with services firms to help drive and close new business-if you need help with that, email me at What I actually do: drive sales efforts to bring ad agencies and services firms on board with RSW, create content around successful new business tactics and help drive RSW/US marketing objectives, including social media channels, blog content, webinars, video and speaking engagements. Dig it.