Commercial Success

Dany Lennon places the hottest leaders in advertising. Here, she talks about what she looks for in candidates for creative jobs–and why you should be watching the same movies as your 8-year-old.


Who she is: Dany Lennon, president, the Creative Register Inc.


Who she’s placed: Paul Silburn, executive creative director, Fallon North America; Dan Morales, creative director, TAXI NY; Kevin Roddy, executive creative director, BBH

Creatives managing creatives sounds like a nightmare. What kind of leaders are best at managing creative folks?

The most rewarding trait a leader can have, as far as I’m concerned, is the ability to hire people who are better than himself. It takes a huge person to be able to come to terms with that. I can usually get a good sense of this by asking a candidate what sort of structure he would devise for his creative department. I’m suspicious of people who are more fixated on hierarchies than the purest creative potential of the people who work for them.

I also believe leaders will achieve far more for themselves if they care about their staffs. I’m drawn to those who are generous–in terms of time, not money–who will allocate plenty of hours to their employees, versus just to the clients who pay the bills.

Is the ad industry looking for a different type of creative person today than it was a few years ago?

Two years ago, clients would still call me and say, “I’m looking for a copywriter,” or “I’m looking for an art director.” Today, people are saying, “We want creatives, period.” I just got a call yesterday from an agency looking for an executive creative director, and they don’t care if the candidate has a background as a copywriter, art director, or designer. They want a visionary–someone who can see not only what’s happening now but what’s possible in the next 15 to 20 years. Someone who understands what’s beyond the 30-second commercial. Someone who understands participative media and that TV and the Internet are going to be the same thing.

The best way to find out if a candidate is this kind of person is to ask her what she does in her spare time. I’m interested in people who spend all their time listening to what the next generations are talking about–people who go to movies targeted to 8-year-olds and who know what a bunch of 20-year-olds are doing.

What do you listen for when you interview potential candidates?

I’m very into the tone of the conversation. The words may be all the things I want to hear, but the tone is more revealing. If there’s a roller coaster of emotions going on, it’s usually a sign of insecurity, and I’ve got to say there isn’t a creative person out there who doesn’t suffer from that. The advertising world is the most insecure business in existence. But while some of our greatest leaders have fearful tempers and hotheaded natures, they’ve learned how to monitor and control them. Creativity in itself is temperamental, but leadership can’t afford to be so. For creative people to lead others, they have to learn to restrain themselves.

About the author

Danielle Sacks is an award-winning journalist and a former senior writer at Fast Company magazine. She's chronicled some of the most provocative people in business, with seven cover stories that included profiles on J.Crew's Jenna Lyons, Malcolm Gladwell, and Chelsea Clinton