The Penalty of Leadership

« | »

In 1915, Cadillac, which had previously marketed its high quality as an
automobile manufacturer, suffered quality problems on its 1915 V8
Touring model. Rival Packard was quick to jump on this and began
attacking Caddy for its problems. Cadillac marketing man Theodore
MacManus responded with a simple print ad called "The Penalty of
Leadership". This legendary piece, which never mentions Cadillac by
name, was a huge success. Even 30 years later in 1945 it was voted the
best ad of all time by the industry. As recently as 1998, Advertising
Age ranked it 49th out of the top 100 all time ad campaigns. The text
of this advertisement is reproduced below.


In every field of human endeavor, he
that is first must perpetually live in the white light 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 literature, in music,
in industry, the reward and the 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
be mediocre, he will be left severely alone – if he achieves a
masterpiece, it will set a million tongues 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 mountback,
long after the big world had 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 had 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 a leader, and the effort to
equal him is merely added proof of that leadership. Failing to equal or
to 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.

This is a tribute to Greg and Lauren Glassman, founders and genius behind CrossFit, and to all those who stand in the faces of adversity and carry out that vision in the CrossFit community and affiliate gyms across the world.  It is a vision and methodology that brings with it much controversy and protest and nay sayers.  Yet, it continues to grow stronger every year.  When Mike and I started doing CrossFit 5 years ago, there were 3 affiliates in existence.  Last month, we saw the 1,000th affiliate open their doors.  It lives.


  1. nice post.. very inspirational

Speak Your Mind