2:32: "The People Leader" - Emmanuel Andre

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"The People Leader"

Emmanuel Andre is the Chief Talent Officer of Publicis Groupe. They own iconic companies such as Bartle Bogle Hegarty, Fallon, and Leo Burnett.

Collectively, Publicis employs 80,000 people and are working to change themselves from being a traditional holding company to a unifying platform.

Emmanuel is pragmatic, philosophical and an artist. His decisions affect the lives of many people every day.

This episode is called, “The People Leader”.


Three Takeaways

  • A willingness to be vulnerable.

  • Think big.

  • The ability to understand how your thinking impacts at an individual level.


"FEARLESS CREATIVE LEADERSHIP" PODCAST - TRANSCRIPT

Episode 2-32: "The People Leader" - Emmanuel Andre

Hi. I’m Charles Day. And this is ‘Fearless Creative Leadership’.

Emmanuel Andre is the Chief Talent Officer of Publicis Groupe. They own iconic companies such as Bartle Bogle Hegarty, Fallon, and Leo Burnett.

Collectively, Publicis employs 80,000 people and are working to change themselves from being a traditional holding company to a unifying platform.

Emmanuel is pragmatic, philosophical and an artist. His decisions affect the lives of many people every day.

This episode is called, “The People Leader”.

The purpose of a company is to work for the people who decided to work here. It seems very natural, but you have to recognize that people don't work for companies anymore. Companies, the good ones, work for people. If you don't believe fundamentally that that is true, first of all, you're missing something about the engagement in work today. You're oblivious to that, but also it is what sets the task forward.

Why does a company exist? 

That question seems like it’s been around since we started measuring time. But in fact, the first instance I can find of anyone raising it was in the New York Times 49 years ago - 1970 to be precise - when the economist Milton Friedman made the case that management’s sole obligation should be to maximize value for shareholders.

That view was universally accepted until the last decade or so when the idea of a company having a Purpose was raised. I talked to Jim Stengel who is the Dean of Purpose - in episode 8 of Fearless about Purpose. And Jim now has his own podcast which discusses Purpose most weeks.

Purpose comes up at Cannes every year. This year, alarm bells were rung. Unilever CEO Alan Jope warned that "woke-washing" — brands running purpose-driven campaigns, but failing to take real action — threatens to "infect" the advertising industry. "It threatens to further destroy trust in our industry, when it's already in short supply.”

Later that week, Colleen DeCourcy of Wieden & Kennedy, said this on stage: “I think it's amazing when a brand decides to give something back to the consumers that it serves. I am just aching for an amount of authenticity and certain of the value you bring as opposed to appropriating light from something, of the sheen all coming from the issue back to the brand, so I think it's a very careful walk.”

In other words, doing good for the sake of doing good is not enough of a reason for a business to exist. And even less viable are companies that use a statement of Purpose as a superficial veneer with which to attract consumers and talent.

Recently, 181 CEOs — from companies including Apple, Walmart, JPMorgan Chase, and Johnson & Johnson — acknowledged that firms do not exist only to serve shareholders. In a joint statement they acknowledged a commitment to “all of our stakeholders.” Those include customers, employees, suppliers, communities, and — last but still very much not least — shareholders. Their goal is to build ‘An Economy That Serves Everyone.’

The question of why a company exists lies at the heart of fearless creative leadership.

You can’t inspire, challenge, guide or hold to account yourself or anyone else without a clear belief about why you’re doing what doing. And if that belief doesn’t matter to the people that work for you, the best ones won’t work for you for very long.

The questions about company Purpose are becoming more commonplace and complex every day. 

The very best leaders lean into that exploration. And keep pushing until they have an answer that satisfies them.

What’s yours?

Here’s Emmanuel Andre.

Charles:

Emmanuel, welcome to Fearless, thank you for joining me today.

Emmanuel Andre:

Hi, thanks for having me.

Charles:

When did creativity first show up for you in your life?

Emmanuel Andre:

I always drew. I loved doodling, and drawing, and making things, and when I was asked, "What do you want to do with your life?" My answer was, “Ideur.” There's going to be a lot of French in this conversation. I hope you're ready.

Charles:

I'm ready. 

Emmanuel Andre:

“Ideur” means-

Charles:

I'm ready. 

Emmanuel Andre:

Having ideas for the world, and I really like this sort of positioning. Now, it followed me throughout my life because I never really chose between things that I wanted to do, and so when I went to college I did a business school and then I got really deep into photography. We're going to talk a lot about photography as well, and it followed me throughout my life, this double life between creative and business. Advertising was the most logical place to land when you're caught between that, between creativity and commerce. 

Charles:

How do you pronounce it, Ideur?

Emmanuel Andre:

Ideur.

Charles:

Ideur.

Emmanuel Andre:

Idée is ideas.

Charles:

Right. 

Emmanuel Andre:

Ideur would be the one who has ideas.

Charles:

Oh, interesting. 

Emmanuel Andre:

Yeah. 

Charles:

How-

Emmanuel Andre:

I invented that. 

Charles:

It's a great piece of-

Emmanuel Andre:

Don't apply it, it doesn't exist. 

Charles:

It's a great piece of creative invention actually. When did ... How did that manifest at school? What did you study at college?

Emmanuel Andre:

Well, both. I did an MBA in school, and well, the equivalent, the French equivalent of a business school, and then I dabbled with Les Bozares and I drew and painted, and then very quickly used photography as a medium. A little bit like cutouts or expansions, etc., and then I got really the hang of photography. I like the relationship with the camera, the sort of always awakened type of feeling, and it took over. Also, because I had two little boys at three years interval, and painting, especially when you oil paint which dries very, very slowly, requires a very adult setup, and so I was much happier to ... but at the time I did process everything in my bathroom at night. It was really a double life. 

Charles:

Did you like the tactile aspect of that? 

Emmanuel Andre:

Very much, yes. Yeah, the chemicals, the red light, the long hours, the ... everything was done now in Photoshop in a few seconds, but I did like that. 

Charles:

Do you miss that? 

Emmanuel Andre:

Well, I still do it. 

Charles:

You still do it?

Emmanuel Andre:

Yeah, yeah, I like to do it. 

Charles:

You develop your own stuff?

Emmanuel Andre:

Yeah, yeah. I went to an exhibition of Sebastião Salgado, in a very long time ago, maybe 25 years in Paris, and it was called La Main de L’Homme, which is The Hand of Man, and he had done a six-year journey. Maybe you saw the book, six-year journey through the world witnessing man at work, from the Emerald Mines in Latin America, to people making the Suez Canal, to factory, bicycle factories in China, to power plants in Poland. It was really trying to be a silent witness of man at work, it's spectacular how great, and the black and white. Because he did the entire book in black and white, was very, very synthetic, and to the point of what you'd expect from black and white, but it was very layered and multi-dimensional. 

At the time, you had to create sort of cache, where you had to create shadows on the way your negative was projected on your paper to create those effects, and with him it was almost a way of massaging the image, which was absolutely delightful. I love that. I like that. I still do. 

Charles:

You've always lived in this left brain-right brain world, where you’ve got two distinct sides to things that you care about and spend your time on. 

Emmanuel Andre:

Yes, and I've been spending my life explaining it. People say, "How do you do it?"

Charles:

How do you explain it?

Emmanuel Andre:

I don't. I think ... You know, there's a foreword to one of Annie Leibovitz's book which is called ... it's one of her most interesting books, it's called A Photographer's Life. I don't know if you saw it, it's a little book, it's magnificent. Originally I believed, I'm not sure of that, she started off by creating an album when Susan Sontag died, passed away, she created a personal album, and then she quickly realized that there was no double life. There was one photographer, one brain, even if it's had its left and right penchant, and there was no difference between what she did when she was making celebrity portraits or a Vanity Fair cover than when she was living her life with her children, with her family, with her loved ones. That's the foreword, it's a beautiful foreword to say there's actually just one life at the end of the day. 

I don't know how to separate it, I can only realize that it works, and it works by itself actually. You don't really have to plan it, if you like it you do it, and it continues. I've done a lot of projects, books, exhibitions, and a lot of work that requires a construct and a concept, and populating that concept, and production and teams, but somehow it always works.

Charles:

It's instinctive, you just flow back and forth depending on-

Emmanuel Andre:

But you also meet ... You know it's portrait photography, and so things bounce from one person to another, and it's really interesting to see how things happen backwards. I find myself explaining what happened first, and then next, and that led me to this, and then that's where I met this person, who introduced me. The wonderful human chain is actually really easy to follow with photography because it's such a universal language. It's actually very clean, it's very fast, I mean rather fast, and it's enjoyable, it's a great moment. 

Charles:

You just said you focus on portrait photography in your photography work, why did you choose that? How did that come to you?

Emmanuel Andre:

I think ... I don't know, I like the human figure. I like the humanity of ... I like people I guess, it's a good subject. But it's also I think, perhaps you have the same motivation actually, it's everybody's got a more interesting story. Everybody's got something. You know at the beginning, when you're doing portraits, I don't know if people will agree to this, but you think that you need to have a great conversation to get a great image, and it's not true. What people want is they want their bodies to be directed, they want to know if they need to put their hands in their pockets, if they look at the lens or look somewhere else, if their hair is okay, that's what they're worried about. They're not that worried about giving away their soul or how their deep character is going to transpire, that comes later. The first thing you have to do is physically understand what you have in front of your eyes, and what you're going to give to see. 

Charles:

Have you found that there were certain truths that are consistent to the best pictures? 

Emmanuel Andre:

Not really. I mean in my modest experience, no. I think it's a ... I like things to go very, very fast, so I light almost everything artificially. I travel around with a studio in my suitcase, including in Cannes where we met. When I met David I was going to shoot his portrait in his hotel room, because I'm doing a project out of need called Friends in Hotels right now, but the idea of... I don't have time to take photography so I travel, and I invite my friends, and we shoot in places we discover together. We push a door of a room, a hotel corridor or stairway or something, and we shoot a picture. We've shoot 51, so they start ... I don't know where I'll stop, someday. 

Charles:

Are you going to publish them?

Emmanuel Andre:

Maybe, I don't know. It's the beauty of it, is that you go in with the pleasure of doing it, and then what it becomes is another story.

Charles:

Yeah, very much like this podcast actually in some respects. Talk to me about your professional evolution, because I know you've done a lot of different things within the agency world.

Emmanuel Andre:

Yes. 

Charles:

You've covered a lot of different grounds before landing in talent. How did that journey transpire?

Emmanuel Andre:

Well, I started in France, and I'm French, and France is a small country, but an important country. Small because I don't know the exact percentage, but let's say that less than 5% of every marketing dollar is actually spent in France, so it's not ... and it's not particularly well-known for its excellence in communication. I think the language isn't really organized in the same way, it doesn't have the same power or brevity, is that a word?

That the English language has, to express an idea very quickly, very purely in a few words. Language just works to me a little bit differently, so it wasn't really a capital, but important because it happens to be the home of very big agencies, very influent groups that have come out of Paris. I started off the very academic way, I went to the best agency in Paris at the time. We were, actually we had a great idea, we were a group of students, and we all wanted to go in advertising. We're passionate about this, and we decided to knock on everybody's door, and so DDB and BDDP at the time, and FCA, not FCB, FCA, that was a while ago, and I can't remember, but all of them. 

We were feeding off ramen and warm beer, and you know, students, college students, and we realized, but now I know this, but at the time I didn't know, is that advertising agencies only know how to talk to clients. We would call and say, "There's six of us, and we're passionate about your business. We'd love to come and visit, and meet you. Tell us why we're right or wrong about wanting what we want," and everybody said, "Absolutely, when would you like to come?" I remembered Bernard Rochon at DDB, the chairman, I think the chairman, the last chairman of DDB. I mean, his last job was chairman probably of DDB, had put on the spread with champagne, and fois gras, and salmon for us. It was like we'd stayed forever. 

It was wonderful just meeting, hearing Philippe Michel from CLM BBDO at the time in Paris was unbelievable. I mean these guys would give an hour of their time to us just because we wanted to come and ... Today I would do the exact same thing if somebody knocked on my door. I hope this is not going to be ... this is not going to create problems, but I would. I think it's a gift when somebody raises his or hand, and so we did that, and that's how I started at BDDP. I love this agency, which was an independent agency that later joined Omnicom, became TBWA, and it was an expansion of the circle. The network had an amazing run. 

I left two years ago to join Publicis at a group level, but talent for me is something that really became central because I was COO and President, I led global businesses. I did a lot of things, but people was a sort of a major that I picked, with the intent of, let's deal with people not like the administration of people, but let's deal with people like we deal with new business, as the elementary pipeline to the quality of an agency. How would we think about people if we thought about it like new business, if we thought about managing careers like we think about managing clients, if we thought about managing ... if you change that frame of mind, and you start thinking about it in this way, then it becomes a completely different game that we're trying to play the best we can. 

Charles:

That's a very rare perspective in an industry that is fundamentally built around people, to your point. Most of the time we're dealing with the organizational-operational aspects of how do you manage people, especially at scale.

Emmanuel Andre:

Yes. 

Charles:

When you changed the focus, as you've just described, what becomes fundamental, what do you have to be able to do as an organization in order to be able to bring that to bear every day? 

Emmanuel Andre:

I think you have to have an interesting self, a sense of self, interesting in the sense that what I liked about the proposition here at Publicis is that the group, the holding company doesn't think of itself as a holding company. It thinks of itself as a platform. And I'd go further, it doesn't think of itself as a holding company managed from the top, it thinks of itself as a platform led from the center. I think in the moments we're in right now, this is exactly what complex organizations, that are rich of many things that do not connect, need to think about themselves. 

When you think about it, a group like ours or others, speak every language, has experience in just about any, I don't know, any brand, any client, any category in the industry vertical, experiences just about every culture, speaks every language, I mean you can pile them up when you have that reach, the secret is how does it connect? How does it connect to the human individual level? That's what we're trying to do, that's the project of this company. You know, there was this ... I'm sure your past in advertising or your present in advertising, you've heard the sentence, "How big can you get before you get bad?" Everybody was warning you about size, which was the enemy of quality, and actually today with technology, with the means that we have to organize and communicate it's, "How great can you be because you're big?" 

Creating value out of size, out of complexity, out of reach, out of differences is actually the only thing to look for in a group like ours, but for that you need to think of yourself as a platform. If you think of yourself as a company that holds, it's far from enough, you need to think of yourself as a stage on which 90,000 people connect, and what if they could? What would they do then, and what could we create then? It's a little bit idealistic, but I think you get the point of, how do you tell yourself what your business is, how do you tell yourself the aptitude of your organization. I think it's pretty fundamental. What was your question? How do you-

Charles:

No, that ... actually that's a very good response. It's a very good foundation actually for what I wanted to ask you next. You talked about the importance, the priority in many ways, I think you just said is really about how do you create connections between people, that's right, yeah?

Emmanuel Andre:

Yeah. 

Charles:

Which is a great construct or a great concept, but practically there's lots of things that get in the way of that happening. There is self-interest, there is geography, there are time zones, there is economics, there is not-invented-here, there is all the kind of the emotional stuff, there's also very practical stuff. As you focus now day in, day out on using the platform as you've described it, to create a foundation on which people can connect, how do you do that? Because clearly that's something that the creative industries, whether you're an agency or a brand or a content company, creating that connection, and putting the right people together in the right way in order to unlock their own potential for original thought, creative thinking, is fundamental to business success. How do you start to create that capability? How do you put that together day-to-day? What are the obstacles?

Emmanuel Andre:

Probably the obstacles is the ones you listed which are very practical, I don't have time, I live... it's midnight when it's noon, I'm far away, we don't speak the same language, we're from that culture and that part of the company, we don't really mean the same thing as you do when you say this, etc. There's a lot of distance, and by the way, I think that our differences are not something that needs to be erased. I think that if you're able to connect, you need to be as different as you can be. In other words, each component that marks your difference needs to affirm itself in its difference. Because if you're connecting similarities it's not very interesting, the only thing ... If everybody was exactly like me when we connect it wouldn't be that interesting, but if everybody's different then it becomes interesting.

As you connect you need to promote difference, you need to let difference happen, let difference have, and then my answer to the hurdles is technology. We've created something called Marcel, which is a very large, maybe you've read about it, a very large project that I participate actively from day one, which is trying to use technology in AI to organize, to create seamless connections, to even propose new behaviors that would enable you to not only ask for time, ask for mentorship, ask for expertise, ask for things that we've already done, written, experimented, etc., make all these connections happen wherever they can. We're starting because we just launched in the UK a few months ago after six months of beta, before that about a year of concept with sapient that we luckily have in the family.

It's a huge project. It's a huge investment in time. It's a huge investment in money and attention, but for us it's fundamental. If we don't have that, if we don't have something that makes it easy, and you can always argue, "Well, we hope you have phones, if you want to call somebody." It's not that easy. The little thing, every moment in the past that gives you a reason to drop, you will, and so the power of ... Originally, I don't know how familiar you are with Marcel, and if you'd like me to talk a little bit about it, but the idea was a company like ours, with all its complexity needs to see its task as working for the people, for its people.

The purpose of a company is to work for the people who decided to work here. It seems very natural, but you have to recognize that people don't work for companies anymore. Companies, the good ones, work for people. If you don't believe fundamentally that that is true, first of all, you're missing something about the engagement in work today, you're oblivious to that, but also it is what sets the task forward.

The second thing is that it all starts with the individual. If you're able to create an empowered individual, and so that's why you need to focus with your lens on what does it do to each and every person. Don't deal with macroeconomic concepts like utilization rate or things like that, you have to deal at the individual level, and you have to say, "How do you make ... Create an augmented employee or a more powerful employee?" Because if you do that, then maybe you have a chance to create better engagement. If you have a chance of creating better engagement, maybe you have a chance at better results, and you can't reverse that. You can't go backwards into that flow, you have to start with the augmented employee. We've designed Marcel, which is on my phone by the way, if you want to see it after this I'll show you.

Charles:

I'd love to.

Emmanuel Andre:

Marcel is trying to give each and every individual three powers, the power of connection which is an easy one. Somewhere out there, whatever my problem is today, somewhere out there in our company somebody's dealt with something that can help me. I think there's no problem that can land on your lap or very, very few, that doesn't have somewhere out there, an expert, a mentor, a sparring partner, somebody's gone through it, somebody who knows this brand specifically, this industry specifically. The wealth of untapped knowledge that we have through other people is tremendous. 

The idea of saying, "Well, I have this problem." Here are 20 people that can actually help you, out of those 20 there are three that live in your time zone, out of the three or three that are in the timezone of where you're thinking, whatever it is, the component of your problem, within those there's two that can actually talk to you for half an hour or an hour before your meeting on Tuesday. That is something that the application does, so when I say there is no reason to drop off, that goes into your calendar in response to, I don't want to get too technical, but the time that's been allocated by people can be used by anybody who asks for it. That's the power of connection, it seems like a low-hanging fruit, and it's the minimum we should be able to do, but phones aren't enough. Find one organization where you said, "I don't understand why are we pitching for this, we already have it here." It happens everyday. The question is, "How do you connect?" 

Then there is the knowledge, the connection to knowledge, and we duplicate a lot, because of everything you commented, distance, etc., and we could fill up this room with basically the same booklet on millennials and trans or subjects like that, cryptocurrencies, whatever it is. We rewrite the same thing over and over again a lot. Lew Platt said from HP, I think it's Lew Platt, don't quote me, from HP. He said, “If HP knew what HP knows, HP would be 10 times better,” and I think it's true to any organization.

Charles:

I agree, institutional knowledge is a great wasted resource of modern business, right?

Emmanuel Andre:

But the most important thing to make these connections have them is that to match opportunity with talent. Today we are ... Clinton, I think Bill, Bill Clinton said, "Talent is evenly distributed around the world, but opportunity is not." We have only examples of that. You take, I don't want to take country, well, we'll take a few countries, but Argentina is immensely-talented creatively, Top 10 Gunn Report forever as far as I can remember. I'm not sure, but always very in a glorious place, ann extremely talented nation, culture, in this business, economy that's not offering the opportunities that matches their talent.

Finland is five million people economy that invented Rovio, and invented Nokia, you can imagine that in mobile and gaming Finland is punching way above its rate, but you could ... When I say there are only examples, look at South Africa, look at Belgium, look at ... the world is constantly explaining to us that opportunity and talent don't match, and by the way it would be a coincidence that a country that has 50% market share has 50% of the ideas. I don't believe it one minute out of seven billion. That is what we, as a collective, are tending to equalize or we're trying to give people who are in a creative business, who want to create. If you're going to come and create business you want to create things, give opportunities for more people to participate in what the company needs to solve. We've done a bunch of betas and tests of this principle. We found that some markets where the brand does not exist crack the code more often than you'd think. It's very interesting.

Charles:

How are you finding people's receptivity to engaging in a piece of technology that has that kind of potential? I mean, how many people work at Publicis globally?

Emmanuel Andre:

80,000. 

Charles:

We built a slightly smaller company, we had a 110 people. We built a system, we built a tool that was designed, and works brilliantly actually to create institutional knowledge, it was a film editing company - so different set of criteria, but this was many years ago, more years ago that I care to admit. But even with a 105 people in four offices it was still a very big ask to get them all to engage in using this tool, which we designed pretty specifically to make their lives better, on the basis that if we didn't make their lives better, if the tool didn't help them do their jobs more easily, and more effectively, and more satisfyingly, to use your point, than it wasn't going to work at all, no matter how valuable the information that we were going to get. With 90,000 people how do you begin to get people to want to actually engage in A, another piece of technology, and B, one that they haven’t experienced before, and aren't quite sure about what the benefits are to them? 

Emmanuel Andre:

We try as hard as we can. You know, it's very true what you say, it's the thing about progress, it takes acclimatization. It takes about ... You know, the other day I was talking about this exact same problem, and I said, "Oh, well, it's like the internet, you know." The internet is here and you'd say, "Oh, my God, I have to read all these," or you can say, "There's nothing I can do, etc.," but the change of behaviors are very, very slow as you know. It needs constant, you know… satisfaction builds a little bit of progress every time, but it's a long road. You have things that are immediately useful to you. 

For instance, everyday when you go on Marcel you have six things that are prompted to you, like six triggers crafted for you, because you researched this, because you're you, because you work with an international brand that has a lot to do with China, then everyday you'll get six things that come to you, pieces of knowledge, thought pieces, connections with others, campaigns you should see, work that might be interesting to you, a point of view that's been developed here by somebody that you should read or a training program that fits your profile or opportunities, all these things. We're bringing the company to you not in a generic way like a PDF, but in a customized way, everyday. That's a very easy thing to receive, and we're kind of used to this, and it gets used to where you click through, and where you go so it learns a little bit, trying to be of service. That's how you-

Charles:

It's well-put.

Emmanuel Andre:

You don't ask for big, deep dive commitment, etc. I think that on the platform, you also have an identity, which is something extremely important. You have a profile, and the profile is not only ... first of all, the profile is exactly what you want it to be, no more no less, it's not intrusive, and by the way you don't have to opt, opt-in is not mandatory. But if you want things to work better for you, then your interest is to ... but I think there is a motivation there, which is back to my idea about talent and opportunity. I maybe in a remote country that is not central to our world economy yet, I might be ... it doesn't mean that I'm not as good as somebody else somewhere else.

I can exist on Marcel in a way that goes beyond the condition in which I ... the market in which I am, the condition of the economy, the condition of society, I can be a big deal on Marcel from wherever I live, whatever I do. Which is, I think a motivation as well, because the more your profile is interesting and rich, then the more opportunities come to you, the more connections come to you. On a platform you have to admit that the owner is the user, a platform is nothing but users using together. I don't know how to crack the code, I just feel that you need to have some kind of escalation between things that are easy to receive, immediate benefit, immediate satisfaction like sugar, and then you get into the more nutritious deep engagements with... that go all the way up, what I was describing earlier, how do you connect to others willingly or actively? How do you connect to knowledge? How do you participate on a bigger scale?

Charles:

You see the leadership of talent up-close through multiple lenses, what have you learned about the leaders who are most successful at unlocking creative thinking across an organization? Not just in terms of their abilities to produce creative work, but in terms of their ability to think from a creative innovative standpoint. What are the best leaders able to do?

Emmanuel Andre:

Good question.

Charles:

How do they approach that? What do they bring to the table?

Emmanuel Andre:

I think ... It's very difficult to answer that question. I'll give you my, maybe a few things that triggered in my mind, becauseI don't think in this way, and let's see the checklist. What I do notice though, is that you have very personal and different impact depending on who you are. Sometimes you'll see people who lead by example, I've seen a lot in my career, and the behaviors that they bring, and all of a sudden ... I've known unbelievable bringers. I won't drop names, but people exceptionally brilliant at, there was nothing, and now there is this, and we look to them and we say, "Oh, my God."

It's happened over and over again, and the mechanics of that, and the magnetism of that is actually extremely powerful, because it's pure leadership by example in the most visible, striking, present way. It's not, "I want to be like him," it's that, "I want to do that." That level, that quality. And if you look at the people that we constantly namedrop in creative excellence, their life is punctuated by things exactly like I described, big minds bring.

Then you have another character which is just as valuable, which consists in adding 10% of quality to everybody you have around you. A lot of people talk about no asshole policy, and it's great to have an IQ of 500, but if you shave away 25 from everybody in the room you'll probably be at debit. Here you have, and I've witnessed that too, you've had unbelievable people that can actually make things bounce in a room in a way like no other. People can show up fully. I heard this in an interview actually yesterday, from a French journalist who was talking about the founder of the magazine Actual, and was an unbelievable guy. I forgot what he said, etc., but he was talking about the fact that this guy was capable of reaching, and extracting your full you, the one that doesn't exist for anyone except you. Your full you was there, it was much more beautiful the way he said it in French, but anyway you get the idea. I've seen that, and that in organization is unbelievably valuable.

I'm not talking about climate, where it's okay to fail, it's okay to share, that's basic. I'm talking about the capacity that you have to make people create things, make people create more than they thought they could, which is a real, and equally valuable talent. It's just the two perspectives. So I've seen both, and I think both are equally interesting, driving, powerful in organizations.

I think that there is something in creative businesses which used to be a value, it probably still is, of a company I worked for, was called open-mindedness. You know those values, you just throw them around, integrity, etc., and they don't mean more, you know we don't read them anymore, we just see them. But this idea of open-mindedness was very precisely explained by the CEO of the company at the time, and he explained it by saying, "It's the meeting point between curiosity and respect.” Open-mindedness requires equally, is fueled equally by curiosity and respect. If you don't respect and you're curious or if you're curious, but you don't respect, it doesn't work. You cannot embrace everything that can touch you, and if you don't embrace everything that can touch you, you probably won't be as creative as you could be.

I'm sorry I'm laying thick platitudes here, but I think that there's a little bit of magic, and coming back to photography, the ways to leadership are always different, and they're always special, and they are always a little magical. I'm sure there's a million business books that contradict this, but I actually think that the moment we're in, what we're dealing with, the presence we can have, the impact we can have on subjects, the creativity we can bring or we can give or we can extract, all these things tend to make the greatest leaders I know.

You know, I resigned after ... I stayed 25 years in a company, which is rare in our industry. But after two or three years when you're starting to be a little bit confident, and you're getting a 17.5% pay raise, and you're getting perks, minimal perks or something and you say, "How can I turn this down? It's impossible." I think that the ... Everybody does their usual dance, "You can't go. It's a horrible place, you'll hate it. Your perspectives are bigger here. Whatever they give, you we'll give you, etc." Then somebody says, "You're not going to leave because you know we know who exactly you are." The capacity to know who somebody profoundly is, is the last thing you leave. The culture is the last thing you decide to leave when you leave. You can leave a paycheck. You can leave an argument. You can leave difference of use, but leaving a culture is a big deal, it goes deep in the stomach.

I think that at the end of the day, because it happened to me, it was, "I don't think you're going to leave, Emmanuel." I was like, "I'm done. I've signed the term sheet. It's a done deal, I'm sorry you're late." He said, "No, because you're going to think about the value of that, and that has tremendous value." It actually happened to me, I'll never forget it.

Charles:

Why do you think we find that so important? Is that because we're afraid of what the alternative is? Is it because we so badly want to be connected to something that is safe and familiar, and comforting, and reassuring as a species? Why do you think culture plays such a powerful role in our emotional connection, the way that we make decisions like that?

Emmanuel Andre:

I don't know, I'm not a psychologist, but I feel that the gift of being understood is ... I mean profoundly, I don't mean at a level where I understand what you just said, I mean being profoundly understood in your motivations, and your…. The capacity that you have not to explain yourself, not to sell yourself, not to justify yourself, but to be seen, to be understood, to have been discovered, these things are invaluable. I think when you have the opportunity to declare that or you have the opportunity to detect, that it's the biggest thing that can happen in your career.

Charles:

What's your relationship with fear?

Emmanuel Andre:

I'm afraid of it. I think ... I mean, what hasn't been said about fear? As a motivator or something that needs to get out of the way, I think fear is obviously very powerful. It wouldn't be on the bottom of the pyramid of Maslow for nothing. The security we need, the sense of safety that we need, is of course led by fear or organized by fear. I have ... I think I'm paranoid enough to survive. I think that the capacity to fear, or the capacity to not fear but to detect what you should be afraid of, or what you should be cautious about is actually an important thing. I don't dismiss fear as either a primal thing to get you going, or something that needs to get out of the way. I actually think fear is a very important fuel to most of what we do.

I think you need a healthy relationship with fear. I think it can't paralyze you, but at the same time it can't put you to sleep either. You need to take the ... I remember a person I used to work with said don't ... we're not going to, I forgot his exact words, but he was talking about a crisis, and he was saying, "Don't let a good crisis go to waste." The idea of embracing the problem instead of waiting, buying yourself a break or waiting 'til it's over, or wondering, but there is value in fear in the same way there is value in a problem, there's value in a crisis, there is value ... those moments are the moments where ... that are the most important.

Charles:

I think it was Jefferson that said, "Nothing focuses the mind like a hanging." You get great solutions [crosstalk].

Emmanuel Andre:

I've never seen one, but I'm pretty sure.

Charles:

Especially if it's your hanging I suspect. How do you lead?

Emmanuel Andre:

I don't know. I think my biggest problem is I am a solitary thinker, and so it takes a while to ... I think I'm more ... I'm a solitary that becomes collective over time. I'm not gregarious from the initial moment, the first second. I need to process, I need to... I try to lead with not the illusion of joy or the illusion of warmth, or the illusion of purpose, or the illusion of environment. I think I try to lead with honesty, through action, through behavior. I don't believe in beliefs unless they are behaviors first. I don't think beliefs are elements to communicate. I think you need to get people to follow you because they're asking themselves what would you need to believe in to behave this way. I think the other way around doesn't work.

I think that I mostly lead by example, I think, and this requires that you're honest with what's there and what's not, and you don't manage, you lead. There's this ... I don't know why I'm thinking about this, but there's a wonderful film, because we're in a creative industry, there's a wonderful film from Arnaud Desplechin, I hope I'm right. I forgot the title of the film, but there is a ... maybe you saw it, it's the story of a couple that has problem engaging, and he is a little crazy, and she's very conservative. It's a couple that doesn't work on paper, and she has a child from a previous marriage. Their relationship evolves, and she asks him to adopt her son. She said, "Well, now we're a couple, we're a family, we need to, you know," and he refuses, which is shocking.

To explain it to the ... and he's a little crazy, he's a little unstable, he's not somebody that makes you feel secure, but they go on this.... there's a beautiful scene, I need to find the title, where they walk through Paris. This 40-year old man played by Mathieu Almaric, who's a fantastic actor, and this young eight or nine year old boy, and they're talking about nothing, you know, school, sports, camp, whatever, the neighbor's games, movies, they just spend some time together walking through the streets of Paris. Then Mathieu Almaric tells him at one point, "Of course we're always right, but you have to admit the possibility that we could be wrong in addition to being right." I love that idea as a sort of concept of there's no choice between right and wrong, especially in a creative business. Life is of course always right and wrong at the exact same time.

I think that this tension brings you somewhere that is constantly growing, constantly interesting, constantly replenishing itself, which I think is really guiding thoughts when you try to lead, which is, it's not about telling people the law or the right, the wrong, etc. It's really coping with life as it happens, and that's why I like this idea that's ... If you see the movie you'll see it's delivered in passing, it's not a big deal. But this thought in the way it's articulated to a child of nine years old changes actually your entire perspective on life. It's not about looking for the right or looking for the wrong, it's about living with both, and making the most out of both, and that's interesting.

Charles:

I wrap every episode with three themes that I've heard, that I think contribute to your success from a leadership standpoint. I'll throw these at you, and you can tell me whether I've heard anything at all. First is, I think you have, you clearly have the sensitivity of an artist. As a photographer, you understand what it means to actually put yourself on the line, and create something that is a representation of you, and is original, and that requires a sort of a delicacy or a thoughtfulness, I guess, a willingness to be vulnerable. Second, it strikes me that you're clearly very thoughtful, and you do that not only in a very human way, but in a very almost philosophical way. There's some really original, and large scale thinking that I've heard today, which I find fascinating.

Then third, I think, as you were talking about building a platform, your recognition of the need and the challenge of doing that at scale across 90,000 people, you're able to reduce down to, what is the actual impact on a person-by-person basis. I think it's easy to put that kind of project, that kind of initiative into a theoretical mindset very quickly, and just start applying conceptual thinking, whereas you're able to reduce it down to, I think, to very human thinking. How do those sound?

Emmanuel Andre:

Fantastic. Perfect and immensely flattering.

Charles:

And I think true. Thank you so much for joining me today. I really appreciate this.

Emmanuel Andre:

Thank you. It was a pleasure.


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