We’re All Brand Managers Now

I had an interesting conversation today about the nature of jobs today. The debate centered around the notion of what it means to be the boss, particularly in a creative field. When you’re not the boss, the top spot gets idealized and romanticized as the ultimate perch to do what you love. But when you see close up what the boss really does all day, you realize that he or she is almost never doing what got them into the business. They’re transformed into brand managers and evangelists, rather than being the creative directors or chefs or whatever that they appear to be. Their work looks more like what the “suits” do than what they used to do, what got them where they are. Maybe, if they’re lucky, they can squeeze in some of their work early in the morning or late at night.

So that raises the question: Is this a good thing?

Should the boss be the person in the trenches with the team doing the same work or should the boss be out interacting with the outside world in a way that he or she brings back treasure in the form of tidbits and sources and inspirations that turn into the work their team performs? My friend was clearly in the latter camp. I believe the way he described the creative boss’ role was, “Get out of your office and go have a drink with someone! That’s your job.”

Me? I’m not so sure. It’s hard to imagine that you work so hard to get to the top, only to find out that you’re apparently now on a different mountain. Perhaps there’s a balance that lets these leaders do both without being turned to dust by the grind.

What do you think? DL