If you don't have the time, the upshot is this: without followers you are not a leader. Without buy-in you have no followers. What is the secret ingredient? Truth.
I like watching old TV shows. I caught an episode of Wagon Train the other day that served up a pretty good lesson on leadership. I offer it here because that is what this blog is all about: real-world leadership that gets things done. After all, you can't get customers to buy unless your people buy what and why your firm does what it does.
The episode originally aired December 30, 1963. It was about a guide pressed into service as a Wagonmaster to lead a pioneer party westward. Keep in mind, there were no roads, rest stops, or splash parks along the way! [See the episode here: http://bit.ly/2yuBFKm]. The main character's name is Fenton Canaby. He is equipped with all the skills for the harrowing journey, except one: the ability to effectively communicate.
Canaby was wise and ruthless. He made tough decisions that are demanded of leaders in life or death circumstances. For example, he shot a horse that threw a shoe (they had no more shoes so the horse was doomed to pain); he fought back naysayers with physical intimidation; and he made the tough decisions to protect and preserve necessary resources that proved unpopular with the traveling party. His motive was good ... to keep on the move because winter was setting in and Canaby firmly believed if he divulged the gruesome truth of what laid ahead they would surely give up. And that was his leadership flaw.
Fact is (spoiler alert) travelers rebelled because they misread his intentions. He failed to communicate the reasons for his actions and this left a big gap for one of the pioneers to build a fire of discontent that others were all too willing to fan.
The message is: people will concoct their own stories if you fail to write the narrative for them. People can deal with the truth no matter how tough. But, in its absence they will write the story and their imaginations will run wild developing their conception of reality.
Leadership is about competence, character, and caring. Just knowing what to do (competence) is not enough. A leader must have the character to earn the trust and respect of followers. Character is underpinned by truth, and that is dependent on communication. Not one-way megaphone messages, but two-way communication ... where the leader levels with followers and listens for their response. When listening, one must ask: Are they buying in? Do they understand what I am saying? Do I understand their concerns? The communication must not only be two-way, it must be symmetrical. That is, the feedback you receive is factored into your continuing dialogue. More on this later.
Suffice to say, you are only a leader as long as they follow you. Followers have a choice with whom they will vest authority—the real power of your leadership. If they buy-in, you get things done. If they don't, you're done.
Simply put, the role of marketing is to get and keep customers. The way to do that is to provide a clear statement of value that your firm offers to a specific group of customers. Once you have identified this value proposition, effective execution is dependent on connecting the dots for everyone inside and outside the firm to present a clear picture so that your people and your customers are aligned.
So, this blog is devoted to coaching and informing leaders and followers on the task of effective marketing, or any business objective for that matter. Leadership is an influence relationship among leaders and followers who intend real changes that reflect their mutual purposes (Rost, 1991/1993, p. 102). This is a perspective that recognizes the role of all members in the work of the firm. It also suggests that it is based on influence and the influence is multi-directional. We will discuss more aspects of this concept as we go along.
This definition has been the basis for teaching and learning how organizations frame their challenges for more than a decade. After a successful career running a marketing agency and serving as svp-marketing and communications at a Fortune 100 multi-national firm with more than 100,000 employees, I returned to school to gain a deeper understanding of how leaders connect the dots and empower people in the organization. In earning a PhD, this is the definition that emerged that supports that challenge.
Over the years, students and clients understand the logic of the idea, but sometimes bristle at the idea that it overlooks the potency of a strong, charismatic leader. I agree. Without a leader with a clear vision, commitment to followers, and dedication to results, the organization will fall short. So, to be clear, enlightened leaders are essential. They serve as the catalyst, the fuel, and the ultimate power of the organization. But, it is the relationship of leaders and followers in sync with their mutual concerns that accomplishes real change.
I look forward to being a tour guide and coach and hope you find this blog a tool in effectively accomplishing your firm's marketing and strategic outcomes.
Rost, J. C. (1991/1993), Leadership for the 21st century, Westport, CT: Praeger.