Monday 15 May 2023

AWARD Creative Leadership: Three days with creativity’s biggest names

CX Lavender Associate Creative Director Russell “Rusty” Nelson recently spent three days in Melbourne taking part in AWARD Creative Leadership – a residential course for aspiring creative leaders. Here he gives us a brief rundown on his time spent learning from creative legends Warren Brown, Scott Nowell, Emma Robbins, Ant Keogh and more.

We open in a hotel conference room. Comfortable chairs surround a U-shaped table formation. Name placards make way for placemats and hotel-branded shortbread. A complimentary notebook and a pencil with a French phrase about love engraved on it. It’s corporate. But cool.

As the rain pummels the windows outside, 14 senior creatives stand in a circle awkwardly introducing themselves. You can almost smell the enthusiasm. Scruffy beards and baggy pants. Ironic New Balance and piercings. Don’t mention the weather.

Rusty Nelson

We’re here for the seventh annual AWARD Creative Leadership Residential run by Advertising Council Australia. Professional development for the unprofessionally developed.

A course designed to fill the void of leadership training in an industry begging for a course on leadership training. A suspension bridge to help us cross the delta between being a creative and leading creatives.

Headed by titans of the industry, names like Warren Brown, Scott Nowell and Tony Hale who, for some god-forsaken reason have decided to impart just a fraction of their wisdom on this bunch of ragtag misfits. Chaired by the legendary Paul Reardon, Alex Derwin and Emma Robbins. Then throw in guest speaker spots by the greats Ant Keogh and Chris Howatson. A MET Gala guestlist of Australian creativity.

Flash forward three days and I’m at the airport waiting for my flight home. Rain still falling. I flick through my notes.

Semi-legible scribbles from the various discussions, Q&As, workshops, and role plays. You only get out what you put in and it’s an all-in experience. Breakfast together. Working lunches. Dinners out. Big days and long nights. The intensity weighs on your eyelids but strengthens the bonds.

I read through notes on the leap from creating to leading, the business of creativity and dissecting the creative director role. There are points on empathy and authenticity. Awareness and decisiveness. Creativity and craft. Integrity and lifelong learning.

Words that are normally just that, words. And if not for the experience of the past three days they would remain just that. But there’s now a depth to them. These words are now packed with meaning and significance. Backed by stories and shared experiences of some of the best in the business.

Words that have helped shaped their careers. And it’s these words that will help shape mine.

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