“I see the world of leadership differently than most people. I don’t see leadership as a title or a role in an organization. Instead, it is about how people function in their lives, about the difference they can make. I don’t divide the world up into leaders and followers. We need to know how to be both. Leadership isn’t a position of authority, but of personal responsibility. It is best practiced in a social setting where people share the responsibility for leadership. I believe we live in a leadership-starved world, and the future belongs to leader-rich organizations and societies.”
Recently I toured The World of Coca Cola in Atlanta. Since I rarely drink soft drinks, my interest was in their brand philosophy and marketing approach.
The Coca Cola Company is the master of product marketing. The tour celebrates the secret formula for Coke and the experience of sharing it with friends. There is a film at the beginning of the tour that associates warm, sentimental feelings with drinking and sharing a Coke. It is very effective.
Coke is selling a brand experience. The drink is associated with the experience. They want you to believe a serving of Coke is a vehicle for creating a happier, more peaceful world. Other beverage companies, like those who sell beer, market their products in a similar manner. It is about the experience of the drink, not the drink itself. It is a very clever, sophisticated approach that has made happiness synonymous with having a Coke with a friend.
As I walked through The World of Coke, I kept thinking about my brand in comparison to Coke’s. Like many people who speak, write, coach and consult, we also provide a brand experience. We have stories. We have brand colors that are intended to associate our brand with the experience of working with us. As I wandered through the exhibits, I wondered if I needed to change things. Later, I reviewed my brand design using the Circle of Impact model. Here’s what I learned.
Sometimes, we don’t know what we don’t know. We can’t see what has not been shown to us. Our past experience is not sufficient to explain what we are experiencing right at this moment.
Yet, if we listen and pay attention, we’ll see that we are in transition. We may only know it intuitively. We feel it in our gut.
People tell me every day that they are in transition.
Yet, when I ask them what they mean, they often don’t have the right words to describe it.
They feel a conflict between their sense of being in transition and the social pressure to be strong and cool.
We need to manage our transitions without conversation. When we talk, we need to be guided by a framework that helps us understand where our individual transitions are leading.
Squeezed is the appropriate word. It is why people feel vulnerable, rather than them feeling the desire to be vulnerable.
This is vulnerability imposed from the outside, by the structures of the world and their companies.
The kind that Chris Lister writes about in his FastCompany article – I thought I knew what it meant to lead with vulnerability. Then I became CEO – is a choice that we make to be a particular way. Lister is correct. It isn’t as easy as Brene’ Brown suggests. Though I’m not sure Brene’ is saying it is easy but necessary.