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Bossing It: The Ongoing Process of Leadership with Pedro Prado

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Executive creative director at TBWA\Media Arts Lab on learning from the hardest moments and how you should just keep going and learning

Bossing It: The Ongoing Process of Leadership with Pedro Prado

I was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Lived in New York; Texas; Indiana; São Paulo; and began my career as an advertising copywriter in 1998.

In 2005, I joined F/Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi, where I remained for almost 15 years, first, as a copywriter, and later, as creative director. In 2019, I moved to Leo Burnett Brazil, as creative executive vice president.

In 2021, I left Leo Burnett, and joined TBWA\Media Arts Lab as executive creative director, working solely for Apple.

Throughout my career, I worked for brands of different segments, such as Apple; Nike; Google; Fiat; Skol Beer and Guaraná Antarctica (Ab InBev); Trident, Oreo, and Club Social (Mondelez); Leica; Honda; Samsung; Nivea; Bradesco Bank; O Boticário; Sadia (BR Foods); BTG Pactual Bank; Electrolux; Pinacoteca de São Paulo; D&AD Awards; Mizuno; Miami Ad School; Coca-Cola; L’Oréal; TIM; and Claro Mobile.

I have worked on countless, iconic projects, such as, “República Popular do Corinthians,” and, “Addiction,” for Nike; “Allied Brands,” for Skol Beer; and, “Everything in Black & White,” for Leica; alongside my 12-year partner, designer, and art director, Rodrigo Castellari.

I have been recognized with over 400 international and local awards, including medals at the São Paulo Creative Club, as well as trophies at Cannes Lions, D&AD, The One Show, Clio Awards, ADC, Wave, El Ojo, London Festival, Ciclope, FIAP, and El Sol.

I have served on the board of directors of São Paulo Creative Club for five years. I have been a jury member at countless national and international festivals, such as São Paulo Creative Club, The One Show, Cannes, D&AD, Effie Awards, Wave, Shots, El Sol, Ciclope, London Festival, Wave, Andy Awards, and Clio.


LBB> What was your first experience of leadership?

Pedro> Team captain, age 15, for my basketball club team in Rio de Janeiro.


LBB> How did you figure out what kind of leader you wanted to be—or what kind of leader you didn’t want to be?

Pedro> I don’t think you ever figure out the type you want to be. It’s ongoing; an endless process; an evolution. 

The kind not to be is a lot easier: the unpolite, non-listener, know-it-all, never-delegate kind. Never, never, never.


LBB> What experience or moment gave you your biggest lesson in leadership?

Pedro> I tend to think you learn the most from the hardest moments, such as having to let someone go and find a way to be respectful and empathetic. Of course, it’s harder on the person leaving; nonetheless, a hard moment.


LBB> Did you know you always wanted to take on a leadership role?

Pedro> Not sure. Probably yes, but never consciously. 


LBB> How did you work toward it?

Pedro> I just kept doing my job. I was always available to try to help people do their best possible work. 


LBB> When did you start to realize that you had it in you?

Pedro> I don’t believe that type of realization exists. You just keep going; keep learning; keep listening; and, insecurely, hope the work gets better, and that you are making more friends than enemies along the way.


LBB> When it comes to “leadership” as a skill, how much do you think is a natural part of personality? How much can be taught and learned?

Pedro> I believe anything in the world can be learned. Anything. From leadership, to quantum physics.

Some people learn fast (and you might call it “natural”); some take longer. But the key—in this age of loves, hates, scrolls, follows, and unfollows—is to keep focused and willing to learn. Learning takes time and effort, even for the faster type. And—like many things in life—learning is a decision.


LBB> What are the aspects of leadership that you find most personally challenging? And how do you work through them?

Pedro> Filtering. From a bad-mood day, to a piece of information you simply cannot share, yet.

It is particularly hard when you are—as I am—a strong believer in transparency. How to keep going? Embracing a bit of the British cliché mindset: “Keep Calm and Carry On,” and, “This, too (whatever it is), shall pass.”


LBB> Have you ever felt like you’ve failed while in charge?

Of course. Many times. 


LBB> How did you address the issue?

Pedro> The best (if not the only) way to become a better leader: Embrace failure, and resiliently bounce back. 


LBB> What did you learn from it?

Pedro> Success is deeply overrated.


LBB> In terms of leadership and openness, what’s your approach? Do you think it’s important to be transparent as possible in service of being authentic? Is there value in being careful and considered?

Pedro> I value transparency and authenticity as a leader and as a human being. But those two lovely values should never be used as an excuse to be rude, or unconsidered.


LBB> As you developed your leadership skills, did you have a mentor? If so, who? And what have you learned?

Pedro> I learned (and still learn) from amazing leaders I’ve had. Many of them became dear friends, and I still value and nurture those friendships. The most important thing I learned from them was to lead by example, and not by blunt authority. There is no such thing as “authority”—it’s just a politically correct name for the exploitation of fear.


LBB> On the flip side—do you mentor any aspiring leaders? How do you approach that relationship?

Pedro> I have formally and informally mentored a few people throughout the years . . . or, at least, I hope I have! The main thing I try to tell them is that, in the field of advertising, we don’t really know anything—so, beware of gurus and those coached with all the answers. Leadership (and life) are about questions and nuance. Not a list of answers.


LBB> It has been a really challenging few years. How do you cope with the responsibility of leading a team through such difficult waters?

Pedro> The main thing is to accept and deal with the fact that people (including yourself) are not going to be at their peak every day. In that, there is not only compassion, but also beauty, inspiration, and even productivity.


LBB> These last few years have seen the industry confronted with its lack of action or progress on diversity and inclusion. As a leader, how have you dealt with this?

Pedro> More like, “this century,” no? Focus on hiring is, without a doubt, extremely important. But we must not think that it’s all solved just because we helped to bring people in. We all still need to guide them, and make all the tools they need available, so they can not only strive, but become part of the next generation of leaders. That’s how things start to change. I repeat: Start to change.


LBB> How important is your company culture to the success of your business? How have you managed to keep it alive with staff working remotely since 2020?

In 2020 I tried to stay as close to people as possible: calls, video calls, and the most important thing—informal and personal chats. Sometimes, asking (or being asked), “How are you feeling?” makes the day. 

As a leader I not only tried doing that, but also, I tried to incorporate that behavior into the company’s culture. Some industries may be able to survive and strive without a strong and empathic culture; advertising certainly cannot.


LBB> What are the most useful resources you’ve found to help you along your leadership journey?

Pedro> Music. Films. Nature. Family. Pauses! The pauses from work are not “the most important parts of life”—they are life itself. Pauses are what fuel us to keep going.

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TBWA\ Media Arts Lab Miami, Mon, 21 Nov 2022 10:15:00 GMT