Say ‘goodbye’ to vertical ambition and ‘hello’ to horizontal gardening leave
Former Saatchi boss, Kevin Roberts, revealed his leadership maxim last week. It is: Fail Fast, Fix Fast, Learn Fast. With hindsight, it seems eerily prescient. After telling an interviewer that women in advertising lack male ambition, he faced suspension. Finally falling on his sword, he said ‘goodbye’ to vertical ambition and ‘hello’ to horizontal gardening leave. Hopefully, he will have plenty of time to learn some hard lessons – fast or slow – whilst tending the dahlias.Kevin’s mistake was to declare that the gender diversity debate was OVER. The reason women are not thriving in leadership positions has nothing to do with the glass ceiling. Women, it seems, are different. “Their ambition is not a vertical ambition, it’s this intrinsic, circular ambition to be happy.”
Failure is not an option – but reality TV could be.
Kevin must have really wanted an early release from the dizzying heights of his own ambition. He went on, “So they say: ‘We are not judging ourselves by those standards that you idiotic dinosaur-like men judge yourself by’.” Shortly after publication of the interview with dinosaur-like leader Roberts, his own boss released a statement saying his comments were “unacceptable.”
Kevin, a head coach at Publicis, acknowledged he had failed, exceptionally fast. “My miscommunication on a number of points has caused upset and offence, and for this I am sorry.” Thus a lifetime’s work in the communications industry was wiped out by a crappy interview. If Kevin had only kept his thoughts to himself, he would still be completely unheard of by most of the UK population. As it is, he may now be contemplating offers for reality TV appearances – our equivalent of medieval stocks.
Going down in a blaze of management speak.
Probably Kevin will resurface, contrite and misunderstood, to share the lessons he has learned this week. He may even reinvent himself as an advocate for women’s rights. However, until the bosses stop seeing us as the “other”, the dinosaurs will continue to roam the earth unheeded. By cracking open this debate, Kevin may well have selflessly improved our chances of achieving happiness – and success.