Marissa Mayer. Mark Zuckerberg. Richard Branson. These CEOs and their brands almost feel as though they’re one and the same. The stories of Yahoo!, Facebook and Virgin would not be nearly as intriguing without their main characters: their leaders.
In last week’s Mission-Driven Marketer Bootcamp email (subscribe here), we discussed the perks of structuring your brand’s story much as you’d structure a piece of fiction. Like any good story, your brand’s narrative needs a plot, a theme, a conflict, and perhaps most importantly, a cast of compelling characters. At the center of that cast is your founder or leader, and the way you tell their story will have a direct impact on the attention your brand commands from media, investors and other stakeholders.
So what does it take to craft a compelling leadership story?
Your leadership stories can (and should) be exciting and dramatic, but they can’t be fictional. Begin with “just the facts” about your leader’s background and personality, and build from there.
Where did your leader come from, and how did their past impact who they’ve become today? What past experiences did they have, in business or otherwise, that made them the perfect fit for the role they hold today.
What drives your leader to be great, and more importantly, to help your organization achieve greatness? No, the answer shouldn’t be simply “making a lot of money.” Luckily, if your organization is mission-driven, your leader’s motivation will be much loftier than that anyway. Make sure you understand your leader’s vision and can explain the factors that drove your leader launch your organization in the first place (if they are also the founder). What need did they perceive and decide to fill? What kind of change are they aiming to create?
Believe it or not, an overnight success story doesn’t do nearly as well as a story about trying, failing, and trying again. Leverage the struggles and obstacles your founder has faced to your advantage. Use them to shape a narrative about resiliency, a characteristic that, when emphasized in the story of your founder, will naturally be attributed to your organization as a whole.
Personality (That Extra Something)
Nearly all of today’s most talked about leaders didn’t become popular simply as a function of their business acumen or impact on the bottom line. Its their personalities, and most importantly, their quirks that make them stand out. Entrepreneurs like Marissa, Mark and Richard all have that special something, that makes them impossibly unique and interesting. It’s tough to put your finger on it, but you know it when you see it. For Marissa, it’s the steadfast confidence in the face of doubters and naysayers. For Mark, it’s the hoodies, the obliviousness to the status quo of the business world, and the polished nerdiness. For Richard, it’s the beachy style and dolce vita attitude that makes you think being a billionaire entrepreneur may actually be more play than work.
So what’s your leader’s story? Can you tell it in just a few sentences? Share yours in the comments – we’re happy to provide critiques!
Photo Credit: Hpeterswald