As leaders our approach to inspiring people to do, follow, or behave a particular way has become confused with the patterns of Marketers. The jobs of marketers and leaders are similar in that both often find themselves trying to convince people to do something or to behave in a certain way. But as leaders we cannot adopt the same marketing methodologies that marketers use, or we will be labeled as magicians not leaders. Selling illusion instead of substance.

The craft of Illusion

Recently a National fast-food restaurant promoted its latest combo Fish meal with CG enhanced visual close-ups and the compelling choral vocals of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. Really? Deep fried battered fish fingers and “An die Freunde”? Were they perhaps attempting to borrow the substance of Beethoven’s 9th and lend it to the fish fingers, to create a sense of substance. A marketing trick to be sure, but not the kind that leaders should try.

Benjamin Franklin wrote:

Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.

If we sell illusion to the people we lead, then there is no substance to our words and they will fail the test of time. People seem incredibly able to sniff out pretense. I think it is precisely because of the sloppy magic of marketers, that people have now developed a keen ‘sniffer’ for illusion and slight of hand.

Truth in Identity

The real solution to authentic leadership in our media saturated world is actually very familiar. YOURSELF. Lead truthfully and authentically from who you really are, and people will follow because that kind of transparency fosters trust – a critical component in leadership. The other reason you should lead from who you are is because that is where you are strongest. It represents alignment within yourself, and comes across as confidence. And confidence inspires action in those you are leading.

Two questions then:

  • Are you using marketer’s magic on the people you are leading?
  • Do you know who you are and what your Strengths are, so you can lead from there?