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8 Management Lessons From A Great Boss


On Wednesday this week we will gather to mark the retirement of Jack Klues from the Publicis Groupe.

In a 35 plus year career, Jack spun out Leo Burnett Media into Starcom, managed its merger with Mediavest to form Starcom Mediavest Group, oversaw Publicis Groupe Media which combined Zenith Optimedia and SMG after being acquired by Publicis and along with David Kenny at first and then alone, headed VivaKi which combined Publicis Groupe’s media assets and the digital giants Digitas and Razorfish.

When he stepped down as CEO at the end of 2012 to take on a six-month transitory stint as VivaKi’s Chairman, VivaKi accounted for nearly 40 percent of Publicis Groupe revenue and over 60% of its growth. Jack was also the only American on a five member Publicis Board of Directors.

And as a last act he along with Maurice Levy, re-engineered VivaKi despite its success to position it for the next few years in a networked global world where collaboration will be an essential requirement since no one company will be able to do it all.

Not bad for a guy from Quincy Illinois.

I have worked directly for Jack for the past 15 years  Jack has become not just a boss but also a mentor and a friend. Most importantly he taught me, as he has done so many others, some of the most important management lessons. Here are a few:

1. There is no substitute for hard work: Jack was always on and always in. He is wickedly smart but does not rest on his laurels and is continuously involved and focused on work. (While making sure he always spent time with his priority one his family) . He never called it in. Tim Ferris and all those books of 4-hour workweeks and stuff are full of absolute shit. If you want to do well you have to work your butt off. Period. Even if you are supposedly smart.

 2.  Constantly learn and keep upgrading your skills: One of the things Jack had me do every four or five months was to organize a “mind expanding trip” to expose him to people, firms, concepts that he had never seen or thought off. From Atom Shockwave Films, who were a pioneer in digital video and flash animation production a decade ago to Blue Fin Labs long before anyone knew who they were to folks whose sole mission was to destroy our business model, he saw and learned from them all.

3.  Integrity and your word is everything: Jack hates losing. But he will not win at any cost. Integrity, fair play, transparency are his touchstones. If he makes a commitment he will keep it. No ifs or buts.

 4.  Be accessible and encourage challenges: A case can be made that Jack was one of the three most powerful and busiest men at Publicis Groupe, but you could always see him and tell him what was on your mind. If you were a student, a start up, a nitwit or someone who wanted to sell him an idea, he always found time to meet folks. There were no chiefs of staffs or bevy of executive assistants to shoo away people. His belief was it was essential for him to learn, to listen, to be available. Most importantly he encouraged people to challenge him. You always respected Jack but you never feared Jack.

 5.  Always take ideas to Clients and always tell them what you think:  Jack loves Clients and getting involved in their business. He always was thinking about ideas for them and while very respectful often told them very inconvenient truths. He respects Clients but he cared that they respect him.

 6.  Your success is mostly not because of you:  Jack believes that his success was due to a combination of many factors a majority that had little to do with him. First, it was the talent around him. Second, it was the company he was working for (Jack always kept company first and never became bigger than the company), third it was the prestige of the Clients he got to do work with and finally a lot of it was pure luck and timing. To this day, I never take any body that believes they are superstars who have achieved it all them selves seriously. Never forget where you came from and all those who helped you.

 7.  Celebrate the team and make stars of your people: Jack has over the years nurtured hundreds of talented people who he not only gave opportunities to but also put them in the spotlight. His belief was the more people he made stars around him it reflected not only the reality of their contributions, but allowed him to attract even more great folks

 8.  Put others first. Be Generous:  Jack always thinks of others. He also gives back to charity like the Off The Street Club and to the University of Illinois among others. It’s never about Jack. It’s about the team and The Company.

Let me end with a story.

About 11 years ago we were involved in a critical pitch. Due to weather all flights had been cancelled from Chicago and Jack had got a private plane to fly us out from Urbana Champaign. I finished attending my elder daughters middle school graduation late in the evening and caught a train to Urbana where I arrived at a fog bound station at midnight.

In the gloom of the deserted station sat Jack Klues who said, “ After this long trip I thought you would need a ride to the hotel”

Rishad Tobaccowala ( @rishad ) is the author of the bestselling “Restoring the Soul of Business: Staying Human in the Age of Data” published by Harper Collins globally in January 2020. It has been described as an “operating manual” for managing people, teams and careers in the age we live in. Rishad is a sought after speaker and advisor who helps people think, feels and see differently about how to grow their companies, their teams and themselves. More at

11 comments on “8 Management Lessons From A Great Boss

  1. Jassim says:

    Amazing to see that even for an industry icon like Jack, the first lesson is always hardwork..its so easy to attribute success in the digital age to smarts and soft skills..but we constantly need to be reminded that nothing can ever substitute sheer hard work…and thanks rishad for nicely capturing the essence of your amazing journey with jack…

  2. K says:

    Great post Rishad – I see a lot of the same qualities in your leadership. I remember a cold-email I sent to you several years ago – I as an unknown tiny startup founder with nothing more than an idea – but despite your crazy travel schedule you made time to meet, and showered really helpful advice and support at times I needed it, for essentially nothing in return. Not many leaders like that, at your level who do this – and for many, not just me. So grateful – what a difference leaders like you and Jack make to others. Thanks to you – and looks like some thanks due to Jack for his role as a great model for you and Publicis – a wonderful and lasting legacy.

  3. Kaushik Chakravorty says:

    We all are reading this. Hope we are able to emulate at least some of it. That then will be our gain & tribute to Jack.

  4. The year was 1991. I was on my first ever business trip to Chicago, and only my second trip to the USA – ever. I was 28 and media director of Leo Burnett Amsterdam. I was also in part to blame for creating the first ever global media directors meeting in Chicago, the reason I found myself in Chicago.

    I was given an empty office on 35 West Wacker Drive, where I worked with Linc Bumba and Beth Bradley to pull together the agenda and the speakers. We agreed that all Media Directors should do a brief overview of the business they were responsible for so we could (for the first time ever) learn from each other and share best practices.

    In the US “all media directors” meant a long list – I can’t remember exactly how many but at least 10 (people like Renetta McCann, Jack Hanrahan, John Myszinsky (I hope I got the spelling right), Bob Kirkpatrick and Jack Klues).

    One day prior to the meetings, Jack walked into my temporary office. He stated that he had never presented to a forum of Leo Burnett peers from all over the world before, and would I mind if he took me through his presentation to see if it would be OK for a global audience.

    To me, that first encounter personifies Jack. He is not in it for him, but for the people he works with, be they internal or external clients. And he is not too big to ask for an opinion from others to help him along.

    I am proud of my Leo Burnett heritage, and of knowing Jack. I am also proud of knowing Rishad, whom I met while I worked for Leo Burnett in London, and he came over to explain a crazy ass idea of launching a digital agency they had bought from some twins (the year was I think 1993). He did this over a memorable Indian dinner, where I let him do the ordering. I did so because I applied Jack’s wisdom: if there are people better suited to make decisions around you, let them make the decisions.

  5. Adam says:

    A great message – thanks for your efforts in capturing the character of this inspirational leader so well.
    if I can challenge one of your comments – is your public accusation of both Tim and his books as being “full of shit” based on hard work (real research), integrity and generosity?
    I appreciate the rather cheap “get rich quick” nature of his book titles, but I would contend that the underlying intent behind his writings are to spend your time and energy pursuing your passions, not your income. His efforts supporting and promoting and strongly align with this statement too.

    I realise that Tim is an adult who can defend himself if and when he chooses to. The purpose of this comment is to challenge you, Rishad, and express disappointment at one seemingly flippant, crude comment that sticks out from an otherwise eloquent, uplifting and edifying piece.

    Thanks for taking the time to share, and for allowing different opinions to be shared alongside.

  6. Great tribute and lessons that we should all live by. It has been a privilege to work with both of you.

  7. Philip Emmanuele says:

    Jack Klues was media director on Pillsbury when I joined Burnett as a Client Service Associate fresh out of B-school. Not only did he teach me tons about both media and handling clients, but he treated me with respect, which, to pout it politely, was not the norm in terms of how directors treated CSA’s.

    Great post, Rishad!

  8. Ann k says:

    Thanks for sharing great advice!

  9. Maurice Levy says:

    Bravo,Rishad,for this tribute to Jack.
    The lessons are great.
    There is not much I can add.
    Great leaders inspire great people.
    This is what Jack has always done.
    With honesty and simplicity.
    Maurice Levy

  10. David J Ford says:

    Jack and Rishad, both smart, integrity filled and boundlessly driven leaders I had the good fortune to know and work with in a business I loved. My sincere thanks to you both for always taking the time to listen and take a chance on new business. God Speed to you both today and always!

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