Wearing two hats is the uniform agency leaders need

(Photo credit: Getty Images)
(Photo credit: Getty Images)

Agency leaders that wear two hats are often the best equipped, well-rounded and prepared for any situation.

What I love about advertising is that no day is ever the same. 

One moment, I’ll be working on a pitch for a big brand and the next I’ll be heading to a campaign shoot for a startup that’s breaking into an emerging market. It’s an industry that rewards those with agility and an affinity for pivots — luckily I happen to be inspired by both. 

Although I’ve spent my career perpetually switching gears and anticipating the next evolution, last year I took on a new challenge that tested those skills. While keeping my longtime position as President of Berlin Cameron, I also stepped into a new role as Executive Director of VMLY&R West. This transition meant taking on dual roles, each with its own set of priorities, goals and hurdles. 

While some might argue it’s best to put all your energy into one role and do it to the best of your ability, I’ve found agency leaders that wear two hats are often the best equipped, well-rounded and prepared for any situation. 

Here’s why agency leaders should think about wearing two hats as their new uniform.

It keeps you on your toes

As I mentioned, the advertising industry is chock full of twists and turns — as leaders, we should come to expect this. By designing your own career in the same way, you’ll prepare yourself to expect the unexpected. Inevitably, you’ll receive a fire drill call in the middle of a meeting, but instead of feeling panic, you’ll be on your toes and ready to solve the problem with your arsenal of tools. 

I spoke to Beth Ann Kaminkow, who operates as both global CEO of VMLY&R Commerce and CEO of VMLY&R New York, who put it this way, “I am motivated by contribution, impact, value creation and igniting performance potential in talent and teams. A dual role multiplies the ways you get to do all of those things.”

It helps you see the big picture

Spending a long time in the same role can start to cloud your mind. While you may know your responsibilities like the back of your hand, it becomes harder to step outside of that one track mind. By taking on two roles, you’re automatically seeing a bigger picture and will find ways to naturally innovate how you respond to every project. 

As Andrea Wasserman, strategy and marketing consultant, puts it: “Look at how you can contribute to something that is not in your job description. When someone comes to you and asks you to wear a different hat, you should do it with enthusiasm.”

It leads to a portfolio career

Having dual roles can also help you build a portfolio career — one that encompasses many paths and job titles. For creative people who find one linear career path unfulfilling, this way of operating provides room for flexibility in both what you do and how you do it. 

Wasserman agrees: “I do think that the application of the dual roles can help to build a portfolio career within and diversify your skill set.” As the gig economy continues to thrive, a portfolio career allows people to remain resilient, even as industries evolve. 

It helps you empathize with more perspective

The more roles you’re actively engaging in, the broader your perspective. During the pandemic, I moved with my family from the east coast to the west coast, and I was suddenly working remotely full-time on a new side of the country. It made me see staffers that favored remote-working differently. 

When I started in my career, it was taught that more hours in the office meant better output. Yet it was suddenly clear to me that by stepping out of this way of thinking, I (and the company) would be better served by being more empathetic to flexible working styles. 

Kaminkow agrees: “In a collaborative organization where structures are less hierarchical and more fluid, I find dual roles help you drive growth and contribute to multiple organization objectives. With clients, it gives you greater purpose and insight to draw from when solving their needs.”

Dual roles can be challenging and scary. But they can change your mindset, open new doors and even help you empathize with others. So, as the industry continues to pivot, make sure you’re embracing the twists and turns and stepping out confidently with your two hats.

Jennifer DaSilva is president of Berlin Cameron and executive director of VMLY&R West.

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