Tahaab Rais: So, what makes a great strategist?

Provocations by Tahaab Rais, Chief Strategy Officer at Publicis Groupe, MENAT

Or what makes a strategist great? Here are the key traits; ones that I remind myself about, every day, too.

1. Is a truth hunter. The Truth Hurts. The Truth Rights. The Truth Defends. The Truth Mends. The Truth Reminds. The Truth Surprises. The Truth Destroys. The Truth Endears. The Truth Screams. The Truth Liberates. The Truth is Revolutionary. And “In times of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” Thus spake George Orwell. Strategists are the ones who tell the truth about the people, or culture, or the brand, or the product in the brief. In an increasingly superficial and fairly repetitive land of briefs, revelatory truths are revolutionary!

2. Loves being an outlaw. A rebel with a cause. Respects the status quo; but doesn’t mind working tangentially to it. Enjoys it.

3. Is still humble in knowing he or she is not the smartest out there. Therefore, tries harder.

4. Acknowledges that he or she is never self-made and is created with the help of others. Remembers that – always.

5. Is an inventor. Creates new ways of working. Experiments. Has fun playing with ideas. Very important: Has fun.

6. Doesn’t play politics. Industry politics. Or agency politics. Doesn’t have the time for it. Spends that time on inventing.

7. Thinks big. Believes in big. Big brands. Big problems. Big topics. Big causes. Big ideas. Knows good isn’t good enough.

8. Makes others see the ‘bigness’ too. Is a master conductor. In the agency context, at times, even with the client. Leads in his or her capacity – not just leading other strategists, but even leading people. In the agency context, he or she drives and inspires business teams, creatives, suppliers, clients, media and PR partners.

9. Is unreasonable about and biased to greatness – but rallies people to his or her cause. History is witness to the fact that great things – as unreasonable as they may have seemed – have only been achieved when people have rallied behind someone believing in the fact that something unreasonable can be achieved. They have bought into that person’s aggression, that person’s passion, that person’s unflinching belief in what may be seen as a foolish endeavor. You need to take people with you on the journey; else it’ll be a long, lonely road.

10. Doesn’t just claim to be empathic but actively puts himself or herself in people’s shoes – every single day. People. Neighbours. Consumers. Team mates. Clients. Those suffering around our world. Those creating the suffering.

11. Works speedily. Is very impatient. Makes things happen. Faster than others. Seeks success constantly.

12. Is generous. With praise. With positive criticism. With attention. With knowledge. Again, in the agency context, with the agency, its clients and its partners alike.

13. Is a product of his or her environment. And ends up making his/her environment a product of himself or herself.

14. Has passions outside his or her core function as a strategist. Indulges in those passions. Hones them. Works on them. Explores other achievements outside strategy. Because they come back to improve how one looks at strategy.

15. Wants to change the world. Believes he or she can do it through ideas that matter and make a difference.

16. Extends himself or herself to follow the above, even when it comes to everyday life, beyond this industry.

Now, imagine the ones who do all of this. What a great agency that’ll be. What a great industry that’ll help create. It’s time for these ones to step out of their closets.