Leadership

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The thing about corporate leadership is you need to know what you are leading.  Sounds simple right?  If you think you are leading “people” or, worse, “employees” you are toast.  If you are leading “change” more toast.  Throw “turnarounds,”  “team” and “movements” in for good measure. The what you’re leading is the product and product result for which people are paying.  Airlines are in the long distance transportation business.  If they lose sight of that and someone creates a helicopter that gets passengers where they want faster and cheaper the airlines lose.

Only when a leader understand the what can s/he focus on the why — what the company trying to accomplish? Should the why be to make the most money possible, that’s not leadership because it lacks product endemic vision. To take the fast helicopter example further, the why might be tied to the fact that when flying on a plane today one spends more time preparing to fly than actually flying. The why might be to be the most efficient means of long distance transport.

With the what and the why answered a great leader can then govern the chess pieces toward the how – the strategy. Everyone wants to be strategic.  But strategy without plan, without reason is really just a tactic is disguise. A company with a leader who has a dashboard with forty gauges and knows them all, but can’t tell you the what and why gets a B- at best. Peace!

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I often think about leadership.  Understanding how to lead is a marketing fundamental. A life fundamental. Impressionable junior high schoolers watch what the cool kid wears hoping to be led.  Plains Indians of yore, thinking about wintering destinations, follow the chief not the warrior. And to whom do patients with a rare forms of cancer turn when looking for the right doctor and hospital?  A health portal that makes money selling ads, or a doc with humility who takes the time to explain, educate and engender trust?

All forms and flavors of leadership.

Leadership in marketing, trending wise, lies with the “media socialists.” Those who can build Facebook pages. The builders of mobile promotions who use words like “create a Google API that drags content into the site.”  We are all smitten with these pop marketing tactics. They are way less expensive than a page in People Magazine, and can live for months. But folks, many hawking social media and digital media solutions are not leaders. The top 5% may be are, but there are not enough to go around. When the biggest social effort of the last two years is a body wash campaign that has earned more talk than sales receipts, you know we’re pressing. (And please know, I loves me some social media. It is transformational. Just often mishandled.)

As marketers reach out to agency partners and prospective employees, please ask them to talk about digital leadership. What are their firsts? Their onlys? Their big wins…and big losses?  Anyone can win a battle but only those with demonstrated strategic chops can lead into the future. And isn’t that where we’re headed? Peace!

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