Leadership Learnings From The Best Leaders In The Game

By Ariel Shukert & Krystle Mullin on Mar 08, 2019

Two newly promoted CDs reflect on the Creative Leaders Retreat

The One Club's Creative Leaders Retreat unfolded last month in the deserts of Palm Springs, where dozens of senior and mid-level creatives came together to brush up on the skills that would help them raise their game as leaders in their respective agencies. Among them were Ariel Shukert and Krystle Mullin, two talented creatives from RPA in Los Angeles who were recently promoted to creative director positions — the perfect people to get the most out of this two-day conference.

Ariel and Krystle share their thoughts on their CLR experience.


Picture this: you’re a basketball player, with sound fundamentals and a hard-nose for defense. Your shoes are scuffed, you’ve played a game or two. You’re a good player.

Now imagine you’re given the chance to attend a retreat where the members of the 1995-96 NBA Championship Chicago Bulls will break down how they won 72 games and, arguably, put together the best playoff run in NBA history.

Being surrounded by the greats.

That sums up The One Club’s Creative Leaders Retreat.

The Michael Jordans, Scottie Pippens, Steve Kerrs, Dennis Rodmans and Phil Jacksons of the North American advertising world united in Palm Springs for two days, armed with notes, stories and practicalities that would help the 75 attendees go from good to great.

Susan Credle
How Are You NOT a Leader

Instead of talking about what it takes to be a great leader, the ever-prolific Susan Credle shed light on qualities we lack that make us well-rounded ones. We have blind spots as leaders, areas of action and being that need care, that need work. Her steady but loud reminder to be self-reflective is something we’ve been striving for daily since leaving the retreat.

Nick Law

Listening to Nick Law speak about leadership was a little like watching a genius mathematician solve a really complex problem on a chalkboard. His theory is this (we think): organizational changes equate to changes in the work; the way an agency goes about solving a business problem begets how successful they are at solving said problem. We need to reimagine how we structure our agencies, and the people within them. An agency’s Capabilities gives way to its Leadership, which in turn affects Structure, which pivots into Talent. So, yeah, it turns out that X+Y really does equal Z.

Shannon Washington
Lead Like You’re in the Kitchen

There are so many different ways we are creating work these days, and there are so many different kinds of humans doing the creating. We can’t expect to lead these people the way the old guard did. Since the ingredients we’re working with have changed, the recipe must follow suit. We need to commit to creating a new meal. Great leadership is about finding the recipe that brings out the best in the humans on your team. 

Fernando Machado
Manipulating the Client 101

Fernando’s talk was hilariously inspiring because he says things out loud that you have thought about your client, and he is the client. His thought on helping us help our clients buy great work: lead(er) the horse to water. Start with a small project, work on a brief together, ask the client what current work they find inspiring. Give them an idea and then help them get it done. 

Judy John
Good to Great

Judy John’s session reminded us of something we all tend to forget at times: our industry is relationship-based. As leaders, we are tasked with being negotiators of those relationships. We are charged with stick-handling the work, the people who make the work, and the people who buy the work. How can you go from a good negotiator to a great one? Be flexible and firm. Find out what’s negotiable from the client’s end, find out what you’re willing to fight for, and start crunching the numbers. 

Overall the Creative Leaders Retreat taught us that leadership is a generous space where we can be ourselves, and let others be themselves in return.

All of ourselves: our ever-changing, complicated, frightening, beautiful, basketball analogy-loving selves.

Ariel Shukert and Krystle Mullin are creative directors from RPA in Los Angeles.



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