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Bossing It: Fede Ahunchain on Why the Most Important Asset You Can Have is Trust



Creative director of ROCKNROLLA on giving your best every day and adding love into the equation

Bossing It: Fede Ahunchain on Why the Most Important Asset You Can Have is Trust

Since he was 17 years old, Fede Ahunchain has made his living from thinking and executing ideas. He's worked in renowned advertising agencies and networks such as VegaOlmosPonce in Argentina, EURO RSCG (now HAVAS), DDB and BBDO in Uruguay and Central America. Eleven years ago he stopped believing in 'big communication groups' and took a step to the side to revolutionise the industry with a new model for a consulting company: a more transparent one, dedicated and responsible, focused on defining, creating and promoting ideas, branding and entertaining projects driven by innovation and constant transformation.

In design, he undertakes the entire journey: from the design and continuous study and disruptive analysis of audiences, the design of thinking processes that moves society to a better future and, finally, the design of world class production and execution of processes that are artistic, honest and relevant.

He is also creative, general director and copywriter of the successful YouTube animated series, Arturo y Los Frumojis and La Chiripa F.C.

On top of that, he is regional academy director and professor at the award winning creativity school Brother.

LBB> What was your first experience of leadership?

Fede> I was always captain in the football teams where I played as a kid. It seems silly, but in Uruguay football is something that everyone takes very seriously. Since I was 9 or 10 years old, I had a clear responsibility of carrying a team on my shoulders, kicking penalties and putting my heart in when things didn’t go quite right.

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?

Fede> It’s a matter of what kind of leadership you believe in. I don't think you have to be the one that speaks the loudest, hits the hardest or impose your criteria to be a leader. For me, leadership is built on a daily basis. People like to hang out with you or don’t based on what you do. Leading by example and granting others leadership spaces within every project in which we also collaborate, is essential for that.

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

Fede> The pandemic was obviously a moment when our leadership was put to the test. Today I think that perhaps I might have done something different, but at that time it was essential to be one move ahead and rapidly create a feeling of 'alert with control' inwards and outwards. Without a doubt, that put us in a very good position, in which we are today as a company. Many find it strange, but the year of the pandemic was our best year of the 11 years that we have been working on our idea.

LBB> Did you know you always wanted to take on a leadership role? If so how did you work towards it and if not, when did you start realizing that you had it in you?

Fede> Since I started my career, I've liked the feeling of leading projects. Every project that has to do with creating something with a group of people is an organic process, but when you have the chance to get your point of view reflected, ideas start to gain more character and lose a bit of the political correctness that always ends up commodifying everything. I call that personal touch 'rock'. When the project ends, I like to feel that if I had not participated in it, it would have been impossible for the outcome to remain the same. That’s when I feel like I did the job that the client is paying for. I’m more interested in leading projects, instead of people. It seems to me that it should be more natural, less sought after.

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?

Fede> I believe that everything can be learned.

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

Fede> It’s hard to assume it, but the same thing happens to the brands we work with. When you are truly honest about what you believe, it’s impossible for everyone to like you.

LBB> Have you ever felt like you've failed whilst in charge? How did you address the issue and what did you learn from it?

Fede> My biggest weakness is when it comes to delegating. It’s something I keep working on every day. But it’s a challenge.

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

Fede> Above all, I believe in honesty. Even when it shows you as an imperfect and unfinished being. I think the most important asset you can have is trust. First, it’s about having confidence in yourself, but then it’s about the confidence you generate in others and that others generate in you. It’s the intangible quality behind the quantifiable results.

Trust is created with honesty, fearlessly showing your limitations and without false modesty, your virtues. Also, obsessively protecting the work we do and it’s final outcome.

LBB> As you developed your leadership skills did you have a mentor, if so who were/are they and what have you learned? And on the flip side, do you mentor any aspiring leaders and how do you approach that relationship?

Fede> I didn’t have one in particular, but from day one I’ve tried to learn from the good and the bad of all the people I've admired in the different places where I was lucky to work. I don’t consider myself a mentor, but surely I have influenced in some way the people with whom I have been working the longest. I believe in long work relationships. The directors of ROCKNROLLA have been working with me for about eight years and are practically founders of our new working model. That approach also applies to clients.

Carlos Sluman, CEO of Beliv, or Rodrigo del Cid, CMO of CMI Restaurants, are clients with whom I have been working for more than 15 years and who have undoubtedly influenced my present as a professional.

LBB> It's been a really challenging year - and that's an understatement. How do you cope with the responsibility of leading a team through such difficult waters?

Fede> The key was to transfer a state of 'alert with control'. Even before governments, we were the first company in Guatemala to make everyone work from home, with home office protocols designed for our particular model. We were the first to speak through a social distancing brand even before Latin American governments. We were quick to find creative ways to film despite restrictions, but without breaking them. We were the first in Latin America to generate an audiovisual production with Covid protocols, with our partners from Oriental Films. Staying alert but with an honest sense of control over the situation projected - inwards and outwards - a good feeling that turned into a lot of relevant work and generated a positive impact on society when it was most needed.

LBB> This year has seen the industry confronted with its lack of action/progress on diversity and inclusion. As a leader how have you dealt with this?

Fede> Inclusion is one of the most important values on our work agenda. We know the great responsibility that mass communicators have today as generators of culture and we seek to make it manifest in the different projects we work on. Last year we developed the first animated series that takes place in a working community of Latin America.

Besides transmitting some main values to kids, the aim of the series was to address social and gender inclusion - which were protagonists of the story. These topics are more than relevant in Latin America. The series already has millions of views and its positive impact fills us with pride. In this sense, another relevant project during the pandemic was the YoLo App, the development of the first bank created for people who never felt represented by what a bank traditionally is and represents. It’s an app centered on financial inclusion through innovation to close gaps in our countries.

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

Fede> It’s a great challenge. I believe that positive signs of home office are beginning to meet with the need for physical interaction to refresh true, honest group culture. Offices may be a thing of the past, but the new normal must find us in 'cultural spaces' that remind us that every time we participate in a project, we are part of something bigger than ourselves. It’s actually something we’re thinking a lot about right now.

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

Fede> Total honesty. Be sincere. Clear conscience. Giving your best every day and adding love into the equation. Finally, it might seem silly but it does a lot for me... if a problem appears and it can wait until you deal with it in the morning, it’s always best to wait until the next day to figure it out.

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Rocknrolla, Tue, 22 Jun 2021 08:17:22 GMT