The Penalty Of Leadership

For you, these words may or may not relate directly to knotty competitive issues of manufacturing that define the state of our industry today. But they are good words. The ad was for Cadillac Motor Car Co. and ran only once. Radical for the time—and today as well—the ad was all text and never mentioned the Cadillac brand name.

When I got into the technical writing field, my first boss game me a copy of the advertisement below. I’ve hung on to it ever since, occasionally dusting it off and re-reading it. In spite of some archaic language, I find the message contained in this ad to be inspirational for me—especially the last line. I think it’s amazing in its simplicity and depth.

For you, these words may or may not relate directly to knotty competitive issues of manufacturing that define the state of our industry today. But they are good words, and I wanted to share them with those of you who have not had a chance to read them before.

For a little background, this ad was written by Theodore F. MacManus and appeared in the Saturday Evening Post, January 2, 1915. The ad was for Cadillac Motor Car Co. and ran only once. Radical for the time—and today as well—the ad was all text and never mentioned the Cadillac brand name. It was created to counter a campaign from competitor Packard that was slamming quality problems with Cadillac’s new 1915 V8 Touring model. This ad consistently ranks, by advertising professionals, among the best of all time. I hope you enjoy it.

The Penalty Of Leadership

“In every field of human endeavor, he that is first must perpetually live in the white glare of publicity. Whether the leadership be vested in a man or in a manufactured product, emulation and envy are ever at work. In art, in music, in industry, the reward and punishment are always the same. The reward is widespread recognition; the punishment, fierce denial and detraction. When a man’s work becomes a standard for the whole world, it also becomes a target for the shafts of the envious few. If his work is mediocre, he will be left severely alone—if he achieves a masterpiece, it will set a million tongue a-wagging. Jealousy does not protrude its forked tongue at the artist who produces a commonplace painting. Whatsoever you write, or paint, or play, or sing, or build, no one will strive to surpass or to slander you unless your work be stamped with the seal of genius. Long, long after a great work or a good work has been done, those who are disappointed or envious, continue to cry out that it cannot be done. Spiteful little voices in the domain of art were raised against our own Whistler as a mountebank, long after the big would have acclaimed him its greatest artistic genius. Multitudes flocked to Bayreuth to worship at the musical shrine of Wagner, while the little group of those whom he dethroned and displaced argued angrily that he was no musician at all. The little world continued to protest that Fulton could never build a steamboat, while the big world flocked to the river banks to see his boat steam by. The leader is assailed because he is the leader, and the effort to equal him is merely added proof of that leadership. Failing to equal or excel, the follower seeks to depreciate and to destroy—but only confirms once more the superiority of that which he strives to supplant. There is nothing new in this. It is as old as the world and as old as human passions—envy, fear, greed, ambition, and the desire to surpass. And it all avails nothing. If the leader truly leads, he remains—the leader. Master-poet, master-painter, master-workman, each in his turn is assailed, and each holds his laurels through the ages. That which is good or great makes itself known, no matter how loud the clamor of denial. That which deserves to live—lives.”

Copyright Cadillac Motor Company