My name is LARRY VINCENT. I'm a writer, speaker, photographer and lovable nerd based in Los Angeles. When I'm not writing here about things that inspire me, I look after The Brand Studio at United Talent Agency.
Here’s the most important reality check to consider when really leading a brand from the inside out: it needs to be a transformational leadership process, rather than a transactional leadership process. One of the most interesting and comprehensive studies to quantify this fact was published in 2009 in the Journal of Marketing. Based on a thorough review of the data, the study team concluded:
Managers would do much better by opening their minds to a Transformational Leadership approach, which would entail behaviors such as articulating a unifying brand vision, acting as an appropriate role model by living the brand values, giving followers freedom to individually interpret their roles as brand representatives, and providing individualized support by acting as a coach and mentor. This would allow followers to experience the feelings of relatedness, autonomy, and competence in their roles as brand representatives, which would ultimately spill over into the commitment, authenticity, and proactivity that characterize a real brand champion.
The study differentiated this model of transformational leadership from a transactional leadership model that primarily focuses on contingent rewards (clarifying expectations and offering rewards when expectations are met) and management-by-exception (monitoring and reprimanding deviances from prescribed performance standards). The study didn’t dismiss the value of transactional leadership. In fact, the data suggested that successful transformational brand alignment initiatives incorporate some layer of transactional elements. But the data stunningly demonstrated that organizational behavior changed with greater significance when a transformational leadership approach was emphasized.
The late William Ball was an award-winning theatre director and the founder of American Conservatory Theatre. He was a prolific and often provocative voice in the arts who had a reputation for bringing out the best gifts in his actors. The leadership advice he provides to future directors offers a valuable lesson to any leader who wishes to get innovative and creative thinking from a team:
A director thrives when he puts his ideas in the form of questions. You have known directors to come into rehearsal crying, “I want this. I want that. I see it this way. My entire concept … I need so many people on this side. I want you here…” This is an amateur at work. He once overheard himself praised as being a director who “knows what he wants.” He uses the rehearsal as an endless opportunity to tell everyone what he wants. He puts the word “I” at the beginning of all his sentences, which leads one to believe that he is living in an ego bind. A director in an ego bind should not be given the leadership of a group of creative actors. If he uses the word “I” recklessly and compulsively, the likelihood is that he is untrustworthy. A skilled director’s sentences are questions. “How could we improve this? How could we clarify this? How could we simplify this entrance? Where has he come from? What does she have in mind? What is the objective of this scene? Could we try this again?” When the director limits himself as much as possible to asking questions, the actor develops a habit of right answers. The encouraged actor rapidly develops intuitive right knowledge. His answers become more sure and true the longer you rehearse, because the actor learns to leave his intellect—the left brain, critical faculties—and his ego-testing games behind.
From A Sense of Direction: Some Observations on the Art of Directing by William Ball.
When my daughter Jordan was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor in 2003, our whole family began a journey that has led us through many unexpected twists and turns. I write about this ongoing adventure and the girl that is my muse here.