For me, one of the gifts of 2020 was the new connections that I made, both with new clients and non-clients. I’m not a “joiner” by nature but as a means of staying connected over the past 9 months or so, I found myself in some new online (of course) marketing and advertising groups where I have been privileged to get to know some people who are inspiring me in different ways.
Last week I was on a webinar given by the award-winning filmmaker and brand storyteller, Cheryl Miller Houser. The topic was on storytelling — storytelling as a force for good, storytelling that captures humanity and empathy and ultimately, storytelling that moves people to action.
I reached out to Cheryl after her webinar to tell her how much I enjoyed her talk and was inspired by her examples. She said something interesting to me…she said we both do something similar but in different ways. I mentor people using the tenants of “human leadership” and she helps brands tell powerful stories, often using real people. Both center around helping build empathy. As Cheryl puts it “Empathy is critical for fostering human connection and at the core of great storytelling.”
I thought about this and realized that she was onto something. I work with my clients to help them become better leaders. I believe the “secret sauce” to becoming a better leader is developing one’s Emotional Intelligence (EQ). And that means helping my clients to not only understand their emotions but also how to use their emotions to better relate to and connect with people. Building empathy is a key part of this.
How does this relate to leadership? Great leaders not only know how to lead their organizations from a business standpoint, they also know and understand the importance of connecting with the people on their team. Strong leaders and strong brands know how to tap into emotions to more effectively connect with people on a deeper level. Great leaders know that connecting with their people is more than just knowing what they do in their jobs. They take the time to get to know their people as humans, not just as employees. What drives them? What are their goals, both short and longer term? What is happening with their families? What obstacles are they facing? How could they be better supported?
As I was thinking about all of this, I recalled an old story published in 1997 in Fast Company magazine: “The Brand Called You.” https://www.fastcompany.com/28905/brand-called-you. At the time it was published, this article impacted me. I was a relatively young person working in advertising helping our clients build their brands. After I read this article, I realized I was a brand too. The article is dated in terms of many of the reference points, but there are some insights that are still relevant today. We are all in charge of our own destiny. Becoming a strong leader – one who is recognized by not only what you do but also how you lead and inspire others is up to you.
Circling back, we all get to create our own story. Make it one that is worth telling. Connect emotionally with those around you. Be a leader that inspires others. Thank you to my clients and new friends, like Cheryl, for inspiring me. You are helping me create my story.