Adman extraordinaire Prahlad Kakkar gives a ringside view of his philosophy of leadership in the digital age
As he shuffled into the room for his speaking appointment at Brand of the Year 2022, the twinkle in Prahlad Kakkar’s eyes belied his age and alluded to the ‑re burning bright within. Age, as he went on to say later, is just a number, and he remains young at heart, which is really all that matters.
As a seasoned veteran of the industry, Kakkar can call upon reservoirs of wisdom younger minds can only dream of, and he took the audience on a fascinating journey through his mind as he dissected the modern day creative industry, and what it takes to be a leader in this milieu.
With insights liberally pockmarked by his uniquely irreverent sense of humor, Prahlad Kakkar regaled a rapt gathering with his leadership philosophy for modern-day mavens. Enjoy.
Don’t Manage, Mentor
Among the many truths, idiosyncrasies, and quirks that Kakkar touched upon throughout his discourse, one resonated most with the audience.
“How do you manage a junior in your company when he or she knows more about technology than you do, and the differentiator itself is technology?”
Honest and introspective, it is a question that a great many can identify with, for who hasn’t known a manager or senior figurehead who you feel (or know) is less equipped than you to take on challenges you are best suited for.
Traditionally, Indian leadership has held on to the reins tight, refusing to let go and delegate even it is the more prudent course of action.
To those that refuse to cut loose their juniors for fear control will be lost, Kakkar implored them to do the exact opposite with a simple mantra; “Change the system from a management system to mentoring system; groom youngsters so they can take responsibility.”
Aer all, a good leader gets the job done in the here and now. But a great leader sees the big picture and thinks long-term, encouraging seniors to not dismiss the ideas of their subordinates with a wave of their hand, and instead allow them to pursue their ideas to unlock their full potential, while rewarding organisations for doing so.
“If a mentee comes up with a good idea, but does not have a good mentor to guide them, it’s quite possible that a good idea will never see the light of day. It will be relegated to the dustbin. In fact, I believe that the best ideas in any company are often in the dustbin. If you were to go back and rife through those ideas, you will see many missed opportunities. So, think about how many companies have missed out on these golden opportunities because of the lack of a good mentor, and someone who could not see the difference between tomorrow and today. is my request to you; protect the great ideas that emerge, make it see the light of the day, and then become relevant and help it go viral.”
Tell Epic Stories
Stories and storytelling are tales as old as civilisation itself, if you were to go by the scribblings on the inside of caves from millennia ago. But somehow, in the hullabaloo of producing a sea of content, Kakkar believed that great stories were being drowned out by idle chatter, and that things weren’t helped by attention spans that give Goldenfish a complex.
Speaking tongue in cheek, the legendary ad man said, “Millennials have an attention span of 4 seconds. If you don’t engage them in this first 4 seconds, and then top it with another 4 seconds of even better engagement, and then do that again, you’ve lost them, because they have lots of options. So the only way to keep them engaged is to tell good stories.
There is a place for good content and great stories, because as human beings, we are automatically drawn to stories since we see ourselves reflected in them. Everyone has a story to tell, and all we need to do is express them creatively, and listen to those of others.
Technology An Enabling Tool: Not a Substitute
The relentless march of technology has been quite remarkable, as Kakkar noted. “We’ve changed in the last ten years as a country, and as a world order, more than we have in the last hundred years. And in the next five years, more than we ever have.”
But he was quick to offer a caveat; technology is simply an enabler, not a substitute for great stories or content. “Storytelling is something we know how to sink our teeth into. We’ve been ignoring it all this while because we felt that technology is going to substitute content, but it doesn’t. Technology is no substitute for great content, it just helps deliver it. Technology allows you to consume stories; it has changed the manner in which you tell your story, and how it is shared.”
Lean on technology to help you take your story to the next level, but don’t use it as a crutch in lieu of a good story or engaging content. We couldn’t agree more.
So, there you have it, in the words of the master himself; technology, storytelling, and mentoring youngsters are three key pillars modern day leaders must embrace. Leaders would do well to heed this sage advice.