Posted by Steve Parker, Jr. (@sparkerjr)
The very best in any business work hard to communicate value, clearly define roles, deliver transformation and drive adoption while educating internal and external customers. In the face of obstacles, they inspire and lead all while holding true to beliefs, values, goals and integrity. These men and women work tirelessly and live the brand day and night. The very best of them are honest and humble with an unmistakable flair that is always unique and almost immediately defines their character. And although they would be considered the best, they are human and make mistakes just like the rest of us.
Defining the Best
Defining the world’s leading CMOs and brand managers was a thought in my mind for the better part of a year. Who were they? How did they succeed in spite of doubts? Where did they work? Did they have interesting and exciting backgrounds? Were they famous? Had they written books? How do you define the “very best”? Then one day it hit me. It was almost too simple a revelation.
These CMOs and brand managers are leaders that provide amazing vision, listen to their customers and communicate better than anyone you will ever meet. What may come as a surprise, however, is that none of them work for the likes of Apple, Pfizer, McDonalds, Starbucks, Intel, Verizon, General Motors or Proctor & Gamble. Nope, they don’t exist or pull rank at Dell, GE, HBO, DirecTV, Facebook, Google, Microsoft or Kraft either. I assume you are a bit shocked at the above statements given the accolades of the many leaders at the aforementioned brands. However, in reality, this should not come as a shock. In fact, the answer is quite simple and the brands themselves so powerful that they conjure a multitude of responses both joyful and visceral.
The products and services these leaders sell are arguably the most complicated, misunderstood, widely debated, unruly, misquoted, misinterpreted, misused, most expensive, least expensive, simple, impactful, life-changing products and services of all time. These products are bought and sold more frequently and in higher quantities daily than any stock in history.
Who Are They?
The simple answer is the leading CMOs and brand managers in the world are all leaders of faith. Right under your nose – your Pastors, Priests, Rabbis, Imams, Pandits and other clergy are defining excellence in brand management.
This is not an article about religion. It is about leadership, vision and communication and what can be learned from those from which the World follows.
From the time we are infants our natural inclination is to be led; we crave it in fact. We want to learn about and understand everything around us: how to talk, how to walk. As we age we want to know how to ride a bike and write in cursive and how babies are made. We progress to history, science and how things work – such as relationships and computers. We are all the same in that we naturally want to be led. The leaders of Fortune 500 corporations, entrepreneurs of fast growing businesses and even small business owners all want to be led to some degree. The President of the United States is not immune to wanting to be led either, even in a position defined as the Leader of the Free World.
Leaders of faith have more followers than Twitter and more likes than Facebook. They have more capitalized market value than Exxon or Apple and their instruction books are the best sellers of all time, truly they are. Leaders of faith have marketing and brand management well under control and they truly lead the buyers of their products and services so well that many of their customers re-purchase from them weekly, if not more often.
Leadership inspires others to follow, take action, make changes and become better every single day.
All leaders of faith have a fairly simple vision of the universe upon which to build a foundation and sell. The best are sophisticated visionaries that can tell stores that relate to our lives and give us applicable advice. They are also willing to do exactly as they ask of their followers. That means getting your hands dirty, so to speak.
I recently read a quote that stated, “If you are too big to set up the stage then you are too small to stand on it.” That essentially sums up vision. Vision is abstract, not fact. Therefore, vision is very hard to clarify, communicate and sell. It is easy for anyone to doubt vision and it takes a lot of hard work and conviction to build a strong vision. However, vision is a tremendous resource and being able to see, discover, influence, imagine and dream what could be is a rare talent. A talent held by few.
How we speak, what we say and the body language we use are all indicators of communication. Regardless of your following, there is likely a great communicator in your life, and a lot to be learned from them. It is doubtful that anyone would disagree that Martin Luther King, Jr. was a tremendous communicator – clearly among the best ever. However, communication style and substance varies among us all and taste in preferred style can differ dramatically: the silence of the Dalai Lama to the Ambassador of the Pope; the soft spoken Joel Osteen to the rhetorical Louis Farrakhan; the passionate TD Jakes to the ir-reverend Greg Surratt. They are all great communicators with their own unmistakable style.
Communication is critical to all leaders. Similarly, the communication of vision and establishment of a message that others will follow is equally critical. Communication is in many ways the Achilles heel of all leaders. A great story, a great vision and all well–meaning execution can fall upon poor communication.
Post your comments and opinions below, particularly your suggestion about a leader of faith that may be considered among the best CMOs and brand managers on the planet. They are all around us.
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