Friday, January 11, 2019

Mastercard's Brand Evolution: A Wordless Logo

In the first significant branding news of the new year, Mastercard has announced that it is removing its name from its logo.

According to a company press release, "Following in the footsteps of branding legends Apple, Nike, and Target, Mastercard is choosing a wordless logo using only its iconic, intersecting yellow and red circles. It will be used as the brand symbol on credit cards and at retailers, as well as at events and on advertising. The new logo was also chosen to “work seamlessly across the digital landscape."

For over 50 years, since its founding as Interbank Card Association in 1966, Mastercard's red and yellow circles have been recognizable for the brand and go hand-in-hand with the tagline, "Priceless."

Raja Rajamannar, chief marketing and communications officer at Mastercard, said that the company undertook more than 20 months of global consumer research to ensure that people could identify the brand solely by its circles. “With more than 80% of people spontaneously recognizing the Mastercard symbol without the word ‘Mastercard,’ we felt ready to take this next step in our brand evolution."

“We live in a time where, increasingly, we communicate not through words but through icons and symbols,
” said Michael Bierut, partner at design consulting firm Pentagram, “Now, by allowing this symbol to shine on its own, Mastercard enters an elite cadre of brands that are represented not by name, but by symbol: an apple, a target, a swoosh.”

Is Mastercard's logo stronger with or without its name? While every brand aspires to possess the strength of Nike's swoosh or Amazon's arrow, not every brand is as strong as its leadership team thinks it is. When you choose to pay for something in the future, will the fact that the word Mastercard is missing from a credit card or store display make an impact? Only time will tell if this was a smart move by Mastercard.

Image Credit: Mastercard.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Top 10 Marketing Highlights of 2018

With 2018 now history, it's time for my annual "Top 10" marketing highlights post – incredible to believe this is my 9th annual post featuring annual marketing highlights. Without further ado, let's get to it! What campaigns were great? Which were duds? What stood out as marketing innovation, and what will go down in history as memorable as Apple's 1984 Super Bowl ad? What do you remember from the 2018 marketing reel?

With a quick nod to David Letterman for the format, here's my list:

Number 10: After 68-years, Dunkin' Donuts dropped the word "Donuts" from its name to focus on a more beverage-led product line.

Number 9: After 55-years, Weight Watchers changed its name to WW to focus on wellness. Its new tagline has become "Wellness that works."

Number 8: IHOP changed its name in time for summer barbecues and became IHOb. After a surprise move, social media suggested a variety of new names, such as, International House of Breakfast, International House of Brunch, International House of Bacon, International House of Brownies, International House of Bananas (suggested by Chiquita Banana), and International House of Burgers.

Number 7: Following a television episode of THIS IS US, where a key character died due to a faulty Crock Pot, Crock Pot released a statement that its products were safe – and also created a Twitter account to continue the story: @CrockPotCares.

Number 6: During the World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Market covered its name with a large banner for all 10 of the Boston-based restaurants in the Los Angeles area during the World Series so that the name became LOS ANGELES Market.

Number 5: During the World Series, a social media conversation appeared on Twitter with the hashtag #MuseumWorldSeries. Museums in Boston and Los Angeles posted Tweets featuring famous artwork sporting a rally towel, cap, or hat supporting either the Dodgers or Red Sox. The Museums included the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston), Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston), Davis Museum at Wellesley College (near Boston), LACMA (Los Angeles), J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles), Huntington Museum (Los Angeles), Descanso Gardens (Los Angeles), Hammer Museum (Los Angeles), and Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, Florida. In addition, The Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, the Boston Mayor's Office of Arts, and the Boston Symphony chimed into the conversation on Twitter.

Number 4: The house with a famous exterior in a Los Angeles suburb used by the television show THE BRADY BUNCH, from the early 1970's, found itself in a bidding war. Ultimately purchased by HGTV, it remains to be seen how it will be renovated, or if it will get its own renovation series. All the original Brady kids (now adults in middle age) reunited for a photo-op in front of the house.

Number 3: While England's Royal Family expanded with marriages and births, the two most notable included the birth of Prince Louis, son of Prince William and fifth-in-line to the throne, and the marriage of Prince Harry to American actress Meghan Markle. One can only imagine the increase of international visitors to England for the Royal Wedding, and the amount of items for sale promoting the new family members.

Number 2: Amazon launched a new grocery store called Amazon Go in Seattle, featuring no employees at check out and no cash registers. Is this the future of shopping? Is Amazon preparing us? Time will tell.

And Number 1 on my 2018 Marketing Highlights List:

Drum roll please...

"The iconic Volkswagen Beetle became the latest casualty in America's newfound love affair with crossovers and other light trucks. Volkswagen of America announced that it is ending output of the iconic Beetle in 2019, closing another chapter for one of the auto industry's most storied nameplates. The company said production of the modern, third-generation Beetle will end at a plant in Puebla, Mexico, in July 2019. The Beetle, with roots dating back to 1938 in Germany, was revived and updated in 1998 with U.S. sales of the modern Beetle peaking at 83,434 in 1999. The car was created by Ferdinand Porsche," wrote David Phillips in Automotive News.

So many of 2018's highlights may damage the integrity of the referenced brands. Brand awareness, brand identity, and brand experience are so intertwined with customer loyalty that only time will tell if these altered brands will be embraced by their fans and customers.

What would you add to this list? Here's to 2019 and another year of marketing highlights. Happy New Year!

Image Credits: J. Paul Getty Museum ("Spring" by Edouard Manet
tweaked for the World Series), and Volkswagen.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Tips for Leaders to Inspire and Empower

One of the amazing things about social media is that we get to meet people all over the world. My social media activities have led me to meet people on all continents and in a variety of industries. One friend I made hails from the country of South Africa – half a world away from California. Chantaul Jordan and I connected thanks to Twitter, when her leadership account shared many of my leadership Tweets.

Recently, Chantaul Jordan and I had a discussion about international leadership, and highlights follow an introduction. Chantaul inspires personal development within individuals and for teams at seminars and at team-building retreats. Her mission as Principal of Expressions, a training consultancy, is to inspire, empower, and transform. She is dedicated to holistic wellness and passionate about philosophy, meditation, and yoga. Her other positions include: Facilitator of Mastermind for Speakers; Past Chairman of EXAS (Executive Association of South Africa); Honorary member of KZN Women in Business; Founder member of PSASA, KZN; and Immediate Past President of the PSASA (Professional Speakers Association of SA, KZN). Follow Chantaul on Twitter @ChantaulJordan, @LeaderRepeater, and @SpeakerRepeater; and check out her website at

You lead a Twitter account @LeaderRepeater, whose description is: "For leaders, by leaders. We promote success and strive to add value to the lives and careers of others." How did this get started, and where do you find your inspiration for Tweets? On a side note, I've been honored when you've shared some of my Tweets – many thanks!
CHANTAUL JORDAN: A global communications platform, like Twitter, is astounding. I wanted an easy way to see what individuals all over the world were saying about enhancing emotional quotient in real time. So, I was inspired to create a Twitter account focused on EQ*, especially for leaders. After experimenting with Twitter's versatile search feature, adding my own search filters for quality control, and writing an app for my phone, @LeaderRepeater was born.

What are three things a President/CEO can do to establish a corporate culture that all employees will enthusiastically follow?
CHANTAUL JORDAN: Here are my three recommendations:
[1] To create a positive and uplifting working environment, where employees can learn, grow, and thrive.
[2] To encourage open and honest communication, especially in times of stress. The connection between staff can dissolve in a brief aggressive outburst. Although regrettable, these encounters stain relationships and leave waves of negativity in their wake.
[3] To inspire meaningful expression and contribution within an organization, by developing each individual's personal strengths and/or special talents. A company’s success relies on employees who enjoy their work and feel fulfilled.

A company’s success relies on employees who enjoy their work and feel fulfilled. –@ChantaulJordan #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBrand

How can a President/CEO become an organization's number one brand ambassador?
CHANTAUL JORDAN: I am of the opinion that a President/CEO should NOT be an organization’s number one brand ambassador, as it can be dangerous for the brand to be linked too closely to a fallible (and, indeed, mortal) human being. The CEO should adopt a lifestyle and morality that’s congruent with the values of the organization and should be seen as a competent and effective leader and manager – nothing more.

What are some traits to be a good leader, and why?
CHANTAUL JORDAN: The ongoing responsibility to do better and achieve more is hugely stressful, and the pressure is exhausting, and ironically leads to sub-standard work and ineffective relationships. A leader who practices self-mastery and demonstrates continued learning and personal well-being, is by far the better leader. If the leader’s mind is disturbed by worries and anxieties, not only is his efficiency and productivity affected, but the majority of his time is spent in crisis management, setting the tone throughout the business. So, it’s important that the CEO is a role model for equanimity, in good times and bad times. Also, effective communication of a clear vision and inspiration. How to achieve this? Deliberate engagement will result in better collaboration within teams, and therefore a more profitable business! (And a healthier option for all concerned.)

TWEET THIS: A leader who demonstrates continued learning is by far the better leader. –@ChantaulJordan #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBrand

One of your recent Tweets featured a quote from Sir Edmund Hillary, the first person to summit Mt. Everest: "You don't have to be a hero to accomplish great things. You can just be an ordinary chap sufficiently motivated to reach challenging goals." How does this apply to the office environment whereby one doesn't need a title to be a leader?
CHANTAUL JORDAN: People who are popular for their talent, their expertise, fashion sense, charisma, to name but a few, can be natural pacesetters and visionaries who others naturally want to follow. This is true, and let’s not forget that some of the greatest influencers aren’t in the office, but rather, at home. Family can be empowering catalysts! Why? We’re hugely inspired by love and care, and a sense of belonging – where there are mutual interests to work on and achieve together. Perhaps that’s what we need in the workplace, just a little more heart connection. A good healthy environment that’s conducive to thrive in!

My gratitude and appreciation to Chantaul for appearing on my Blog and for sharing her inspiring leadership insights!

Image Credit: Chantaul Jordan.

*Emotional Quotient is different from Intelligence Quotient because instead of measuring your general intelligence, it measures your emotional intelligence. Emotional Quotient is the ability to sense, understand, and effectively apply the power and acumen of emotions to facilitate high levels of collaboration and productivity. In the business environment, Emotional Quotient is important because it helps you leverage your awareness of emotions for effectiveness in the workplace.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Why Do Customer Experiences Have to Be So Different?

Just like you, I interact with a variety of brands on a daily basis. From the moment I wake up to a radio alarm, there’s my preferred radio station. Then, there’s the waffle and orange juice I choose for breakfast. There are the news sites I read on my smartphone and tablet and the TV news channels I watch. And there are the two virtual assistants I speak to in order to learn the outside temperature. And there are the clothing items I choose and the shampoo, soap, and toothpaste I use. With only an hour of my day gone, that’s at least 20 brands before I start my work day. I cannot imagine how many brands I will interact with before the end of the day!

So, with this large brand number in mind, why do customer experiences have to be so different? Two recent customer experiences stand out because they were so different.

I visited a store that sells boxes – you would immediately recognize the national brand name because it is known as a moving equipment and storage rental company. Once I had selected the boxes I wished to purchase, I saw a sign that read:
“$6.99 for one box, but as low as $4.99 with a 10 percent discount. When I questioned the salesperson as to how many boxes I had to purchase to pay the lower price, she told me that I had to buy 10 boxes. So, I placed 10 boxes on the counter expecting to pay the $4.99 price.

Once I saw my total, I was surprised. The total for the 10 boxes was $69.99 with a single discount of $6.99. When I asked for clarification, the salesperson explained that only one box could get a discount and she did not know how to actually charge $4.99.

Wait a minute! If the signage above the boxes read “$6.99 for one box, but as low as $4.99 with a 10 percent discount,” where was the discount? In addition, how can a cashier complete transactions if he or she cannot implement discounts that are advertised less than ten feet from where they are standing? As you can imagine, I only bought five of the boxes.

Contrast that experience with this one. I was at a national pet store and saw a cat scratching post that was the right height for my two cats. However, the protective wrap around the post was open and might have slightly damaged the post – it would be impossible to tell until I got it home and completely unwrapped it. So, at the check-out counter, I showed the cashier about the wrapping and asked if I could get a discount. She didn't bat an eyelash and immediately offered a 20 percent discount while simultaneously asking, “Will that be good enough?”

These experiences reminded me of Bill Quiseng’s (@BillQuiseng on Twitter) quote:

“Businesses need to understand and educate their employees that there is a difference between taking care of a customer and caring for the customer. For example, taking care of a hotel guest is checking him quickly, giving him a key to a room that is clean and problem-free. Caring for a guest is recognizing that the guest was obviously under the weather and sending up a cup of chicken soup with a note, “Hope you are feeling better soon.” Taking care of a customer is a transaction. Genuinely caring for a customer generates an emotional connection. And emotionally engaged customers are much more loyal than merely satisfied ones.”

These two experiences left me with some important questions:
* Why are some employees empowered to create memorable and positive customer experiences for their brands and others are not?
* What causes leadership teams to train their employees to care about their customers?
* How can brands endure if they don’t create a customer-focused culture?

How would your brand have handled these different customer experiences? 

Monday, November 19, 2018

Leadership + Strategy = Amazing Employee Experience

In 2013, I shared tips about employee engagement on my Blog. The following quote stood out by Erika Andersen.

“If a company’s focus is ‘How can we give our customers what they want,’ then that company needs great employees. To come up with the ideas, to make the great products, to interact with the customers. Employees aren’t a begrudged necessity in that kind of company – they’re what makes it possible. And if my company feels like that about me, and treats me that way, then I’m most likely to feel that way about my company and treat my company that way. VoilĂ : engagement. AND productivity, reduced turnover, attracting top talent. AND delighted customers, great products and services, big profits.”

If you’re unfamiliar with Erika Andersen and her work, then this post is for you. Erika Andersen is the founding partner of Proteus, a coaching, consulting, and training firm that focuses on leader readiness. Over the past 30 years, she has developed a reputation for creating approaches to learning and business-building that are tailored to the challenges, goals, and cultures of her clients. She and her colleagues at Proteus focus uniquely on helping leaders at all levels get ready and stay ready to meet whatever the future might bring. In addition, Erika is the author of many books as well as the author and host of the Proteus Leader Show, a regular podcast that offers quick, practical support for leaders and managers. Follow on Twitter @erikaandersen and @ProteusLeader – and also on the web at Erika and I recently had a discussion about leadership, and highlights follow below.

QUESTION: You appeared on my Blog in 2011 when I shared a review of your book, BEING STRATEGIC. (Link to this post is included at the end of this Q&A.) Can you provide a brief recap of the four parts of strategy for readers who may be unfamiliar with your work?
ERIKA ANDERSEN: Of course! Being Strategic offers a model for thinking and acting in a way that will allow you to create your best life, career, or business: to consistently make the core directional choices that will best move you toward your hoped-for future.

Here’s how it works:

Define the Challenge:
We’ve found this “pre-step” is key: first you need to get clear about the problem you’re trying to solve or the challenge you’re trying to address. This is especially important when you’re using this process with a group of people – otherwise you may find they’re all trying to solve different problems!

Clarify What Is: In this step, you get clear about where you’re starting from relative to your challenge. You note strengths or assets you now have that might help you solve the problem or address the challenge, then any weaknesses you have that might get in the way. You also look at external factors that might support you or get in your way. Getting as clear as possible about where you’re starting from grounds your visioning, in the next step.

Envision What’s the Hope: This is where you envision a future that would address the challenge as you’ve defined it, given your current reality. By creating your vision based on your actual current state and a real challenge, you can create a three-dimensional picture of a successful future that’s both practical and inspiring: a reasonable aspiration.

Face What’s in the Way:
At this point, you know where you’re starting from and where you want to go, so now you can look at what’s in the way: the obstacles that might arise between your “what is” and the future you envision. By defining the key obstacles, you’ll be able to factor overcoming them into your plan – the final step. 

Determine What’s the Path: In this last part of the process, you decide first on your strategies – those core directional choices or efforts you’ll need to make in order to achieve your hoped-for future. Once you’ve selected those strategies, you’ll craft the specific tactics that will best implement them. 

We love the almost infinite adaptability of this approach: it works for envisioning the future of your company and building a plan to achieve it; for planning a family vacation; or for creating a map of the work life you most want.

QUESTION: You appeared on my Blog in 2014 because one of your leadership lessons for a post on Forbes was timeless: Be the manager or leader you’d like to have. (Link to this post is included at the end of this Q&A.) Can you share a few highlights from your Forbes post?
ERIKA ANDERSEN: In the Forbes post you and I discussed in 2014, I noted that one of the most constructive ways to deal with having a really bad boss was to use the person as a model for what not to do.

But let’s talk more broadly about being the boss – the manager and leader – you’d like to have. Most human beings want the same things from leaders (this is the basic premise of my book Leading So People Will Follow). We look for leaders who are far-sighted – who share a compelling and inclusive view of a future that we can achieve together, and who model and move toward the vision daily with us. We want passionate leaders who remain committed to that vision, to us and the enterprise through adversity and challenge – and at the same time, who are open to input and to new ideas. It’s also important to us that our leaders be courageous: that they make difficult decisions with limited information, even when that’s uncomfortable for them – and that they take full responsibility for those decisions.

We also want wise leaders who reflect on and learn from their experience, and then think deeply about how to incorporate their understanding into making good choices. We love having generous leaders who share what they have – knowledge, power, authority, and resources – and perhaps most important, belief in our capability and our good intentions. And finally, we want trustworthy leaders who can be relied upon to keep their word and deliver on their promises – to do what they say they will do.

Think about it – you’d like to have this kind of a leader, right? So, would everyone who works for you. If you’re a leader, I would encourage you to reflect carefully and honestly on whether and to what extent you demonstrate these attributes – and if you’re not sure, ask someone who you believe sees you clearly, wants the best for you, and is willing to tell you the truth. And then do everything you can to become this kind of leader.

QUESTION: How do you explain the following statement: Your culture is your brand?

ERIKA ANDERSEN: Let me start by offering a definition of company culture: A pattern of accepted behavior and the beliefs and values that underlie and reinforce it. A pattern of accepted behavior means “how it’s OK to act” in your company – and that is most often based on the values and beliefs of the CEO and his or her team.

For instance, if leaders in Company A value profit by any means, that will drive behaviors that could create a culture that’s cut-throat, doesn’t invest much in people, maybe even crosses the line of integrity in the service of making money. If Company B’s leaders value creating benefit for all their stakeholders – customers, employees and investors – that will drive behaviors that would likely yield a culture that supports employees to reach their potential, focuses on excellent customer service, and targets profitable growth without sacrificing those things.  

If you define brand as the promise of an experience, it’s pretty clear in the examples above that those two very different cultures would create two very different brand experiences. And it wouldn’t matter what Company A says its brand is – their customers would have an experience very much determined by the profit-at-all-costs values and behaviors accepted within that company. So, in my mind, the statement ‘Your culture is your brand’ is perfectly true…even if leaders don’t realize it’s true!

QUESTION: How can a President/CEO become an organization’s number one brand ambassador?
ERIKA ANDERSEN: By getting really clear about what the brand is and making sure it arises from and is aligned with his or her values. Then by clearly defining the behaviors that embody that brand. And then – and this is the single most important thing – by living the brand daily. We practice this at Proteus. Our brand attributes (and our core values) are Illuminating, Strengthening and Trustworthy. That’s the experience we want our clients to have when they deal with us, and it’s how we want to interact with each other. My business partners and I take our responsibility to live these values very seriously, and we invite anyone in the company to tell us (in an illuminating and strengthening way!) if we’re not delivering on that commitment.

QUESTION: You say that “being able to learn new skills well and quickly is the key to success in the 21st century. Can you explain why?
ERIKA ANDERSEN: Absolutely! Unless you’re living somewhere deep in the equatorial rain forest, or on top of a mountain, you know that we’re living in an era of unprecedented change, driven largely by the enormous, daily proliferation of new knowledge. But what does that mean for us, day-to-day? This explosion of knowledge, and the technological, scientific and cultural advances that have resulted, have dramatically changed how we learn and how we work – and what it takes to succeed at work and in our lives.

For someone growing up a hundred years ago, in the early part of the 20th century, the expectations around learning were fairly clear: you would go to school to learn the basics, then land a job and learn what you needed in order to do that job reasonably well. You would go on to work in some version of that job until you retired. This was true whether you were a doctor or a pipe-fitter: the vast majority of people learned a trade or profession and practiced it throughout their entire working life. 

Fast forward to today, when most people entering the workforce expect that they will have a variety of jobs and work at a number of companies – perhaps with a stint or two of working free-lance mixed in, or even spending part of their career creating and working in their own company. It’s extremely unlikely that anyone working today will have the same job for their entire career: even for someone who is part of the ever-smaller minority of workers who stay at one company or in one field for their entire work life, that company and that field will certainly change dramatically over the course of that person’s career.

Given all this, it seems clear that those who succeed in today’s world will be those who can acquire and apply new knowledge, new skills, and new ways of operating quickly and continuously. That’s really the premise of my book, Be Bad First: that at this point in history, where knowledge is increasing exponentially, where work is changing daily, where advancements in every area of discipline nearly outpace our ability to communicate them, the ability to learn well and quickly is the most important skill we can have.


My gratitude and appreciation to Erika for once again appearing on my Blog and for sharing her amazing insights about leadership.

Are You the Type of Manager or Leader YOU Would Follow? – from 2014

Want to be Nicknamed Strategy Guru – from 2011

Monday, November 12, 2018

Two Opposite Sides of the Customer Experience Spectrum

Recently, I had two different and, as a result, unforgettable customer experiences. The reason is, they represent the complete opposite sides of the customer experience spectrum. To quote customer service expert Bill Quiseng, "Customer service is all about what you do for a customer. But customer experience is all about how the customer feels about your company." Details of the experiences follow - and please note, neither company was Amazon.

I found an online shoe company that specialized in comfortable shoes for airline personnel - since they are on their feet while they do their jobs. This company had a nice-looking boot that I was interested in purchasing, however, the online reviews indicated that a larger size might be necessary. I called the toll-free number provided on the website. The woman who answered said she had no knowledge about the shoes because she worked in the travel agency associated with the shoe company. Wait a minute, I called the number that the website provided if there were questions about the shoes. While I was scratching my head, the lady gave me an email address for further inquiries. Even more odd, the email address had nothing to do with the shoe company, i.e., the part of the email address after the @ was for a travel agency. How many touchpoints was I, the customer, supposed to have before I found the correct person who had knowledge about the shoes that the company sold?

On the opposite side of the customer experience spectrum, I was again online looking through an eCommerce site where I am a repeat customer. While I have purchased several items from this site in the past, I did not purchase anything on this particular visit. I left the site and didn't think about any of the items I had seen until I received an email from the company about an hour later.

The subject line read: "Oops, forget something?" And the email read as follows:
We noticed something caught your eye. There's still time to add it to your cart.

What a difference! The first company did not care about me as a customer, while the second company clearly valued me, had noticed I had visited its website, and wanted my business.

Here are some key take-aways from my two experiences: How does your brand show that you value your customers? Do you communicate with your customers regularly so that they feel valued? And above all, are your employees educated on company details outside of their area of expertise so that they are able to answer basic customer questions? If not, it's definitely time for some re-training.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Sharing Timeless Leadership Lessons

Over the years, thanks to social media, I have had the privilege to meet and interact with a variety of leadership experts. These leadership experts travel the world sharing their expertise to create better leaders and, as a result, more engaged workforces. One of these experts is James Strock, an independent entrepreneur and reformer in business, government, and politics. His most recent book is a must-read, Serve to Lead 2.0: 21st Century Leaders Manual. Follow James on Twitter @jamesstrock and visit his website at We recently had a discussion about leadership, and highlights follow below.

QUESTION: What defines a great leader that others want to follow?

JAMES STROCK: The ultimate test for leadership is: Would history have been different BUT FOR their service? Few leaders can credibly be accorded this accolade. One thinks of Winston Churchill. His determination to fight Hitler at the height of Nazi power—against the better judgment of many experts and the initial inclination of a large part of the English public—changed the course of history. Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Charles De Gaulle also pass the “but for” test. On the other hand, Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mussolini, and Mao fail. Any argument for the effect on history is compromised by their reliance on coercion to achieve and maintain power. As such, they’re best seen not as leaders per se, but as criminals.

QUESTION: You often write about Theodore Roosevelt. Which three of his leadership lessons do you consider to be timeless?
JAMES STROCK: TR applied determined intentionality to render his life a leadership lesson for young Americans of his time and into the future. If leadership is performance art, he was writer, actor, director, producer and impresario—as well as his own most demanding critic and appreciative audience. This points to his overriding lesson: if a leader can be seen as personifying his vision, his or her influence can be profound. This most gifted and privileged figure strove to be worthy of the support of what were then called “ordinary Americans,” or the “plain people.” Then and now, we sense that commitment to service.

Second, TR strove to achieve integrity. Amid the kaleidoscopic changes of politics at the turn of the twentieth century, Roosevelt attempted to meet the high but “realizable” ideals he urged for the nation. He would inevitably fall short, but the valiance of the attempt was and is evident and inspiring.

Third, Roosevelt never ceased in his project of self-creation. He embraced change and sought to stretch his capacities, to challenge himself, through the final hours of his life. For such reasons, TR continues to fascinate and inspire people everywhere almost a century after his death in January 1919. In common with his role models, such as, Lincoln and Washington, he was a memorable combination of personal detachment and historical familiarity. Alone among our greatest presidents, many people feel that TR, born in 1858, could walk onto the stage and take charge today. He remains an enduring touchstone for leadership.

QUESTION: How can leaders (Presidents/CEO’s) explain their vision to employees so that they also embrace it?
JAMES STROCK: There are doubtless as many ways to convey a compelling vision to employees and citizens as there are circumstances. What is effective in all times and places is PERSONIFYING THE VISION one would present. That requires a level of commitment to those one is serving, a level of integrity, that is uniquely persuasive.

QUESTION: You appeared on my Blog in 2014, when I interviewed you about leadership, and also in 2011, when I reviewed your inspiring book, SERVE TO LEAD. (Links to the two posts are provided at the end of this Q&A.) Recently, you released a second version of your book. What’s new?
JAMES STROCK: The book includes updates, as well as new information and elaboration gleaned from readers. In addition, the presentation has been redesigned, to render it accessible to readers of all ages. It’s intended as a manual, a book that one can mark up and truly make one’s own. I’m delighted that there has been much positive feedback on the new edition.

QUESTION: Since you last appeared on my Blog, social media has become an important marketing and customer engagement tool. However, how can leaders use social media effectively? Which five leaders do you follow on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram?
JAMES STROCK: Leaders can use social media most effectively with two injunctions in the front of mind. 

First, don’t forget the “social” aspect. It’s meant for sharing, for serving others. Those who use it primarily to broadcast their own news and views, who aren’t using it to listen and learn, are foregoing much of the value. They’re confined by the limitations of serving oneself. 

Second, social media is a powerful tool for accountability. At the higher levels of leadership, the lives and treasure of many people may be at stake. If one is not leading one’s own life and work consistently with one’s expressed values, social media may bring accountability. It’s no accident that social media has resulted in a number of CEO’s being sanctioned for private activities inconsistent with their responsibilities. The entire #MeToo movement could not have become a social change milestone other than in the social media era. How this sorts out will be important, particularly as rising generations of digital natives move into increasing responsibility.

I follow many leaders, in various fields on social media—notably including Debbie Laskey! I strive to receive a range of perspectives. This results not only in learning from experts in expected ways, but, at least as important, from the serendipity of insights and references abounding among curious, engaged, leaders in all walks of life, in the USA and around the world.

Image Credit: James Strock.

My gratitude and appreciation to James for appearing on my Blog a third time and for sharing his inspiring leadership insights!

Leadership Is All About Serving Others - from 2014:

Serve to Lead - What a Visionary Concept - from 2011: