by MarkLives (@marklives) MarkLives has been polling South African ad agency leaders since 2012 to nominate those among their peers whom they most admire. Beginning in 2014, we commissioned some of SA’s best illustrators and graphic designers for the accompanying posters. This time, we did something different: we asked a former agency owner, who has been winning increasing respect for their art, to create a work to celebrate the 2018 results announced earlier this year.

The outcome is Charlie Mathews’ vibrant piece that honours diversity, thinking, collaboration and connection.

Note: The 2019 poll results start running on Monday, 27 January 2020.

The fine art of leadership

Everything we’re reading about leadership lately reinforces how crucial thinking and intelligence are to the future of the industry. So, it comes as no surprise that the 2018 poster looks so much like the neural networks that exist in our heads. We asked the artist a few questions.

Agency Leaders Inside Look 2018 collage

MarkLives logoWhat was your inspiration?
Charlie Mathews: Data and the infinitely beautiful patterns that data makes when it is visualised. Leadership, so much these days, is about emotional maturity. Research is increasingly linking business success with intellectual diversity and EQ. I’m fascinated by the neural part of being human. The thought that a small piece of fatty tissue creates this remarkable experience of what it is to be alive is profound. And, if you look at brain imagery and data networks, it is astounding to see the similarity between our firing neurons and a schema of the connections of clusters of influence in social networks.

MarkLives logoPlease tell us about yourself.
CM: I’m a marketing polymath who has been an investigative journalist, an agency boss, a researcher and an entrepreneur. However, these days I’m more of a consultant, researcher and author who loves to draw.

MarkLives logoWhat is your statement about the piece of art?
CM: Ultimately, leadership is all about becoming better versions of ourselves, all the time. It is a humbling exercise of experimentation and iteration. Leadership is a journey. A verb. A doing thing. Thankfully so, because as humans we learn by watching and emulating. We are social creatures, and the greatest leaders are those who inspire others to improve.

Agency Leaders Inside Look 2018 collage

  • Look out for the 2019 Agency Leaders’ Most Admired poll results, kicking off on Monday, 27 January 2020!

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