As one of the world’s leading authorities on brand-building, Denise tackles one of the most important and overlooked aspects of a strong brand: company culture.
It’s the FUSION of brand and culture that creates organizational power.
After reading the book, which I also proudly endorsed, I followed up with Denise to talk about her research into brand and culture.
The Importance of Culture
Denise, you are well known for your work on branding. This book takes a different turn as it is as much, if not more, about organizational culture. Tell us about why you decided to address culture.
FUSION actually came out of my work with clients on strengthening and/or repositioning their brands. I found that our efforts were sometimes held back from making as much of an impact as they could have because of cultural issues inside the organization. If the culture of the organization wasn’t aligned with the brand, some leaders wouldn’t want to include culture as part of brand-building, or they didn’t appreciate the need to align and integrate their brand and culture — to create brand-culture fusion — and that prevented them from realizing the full potential of their organization and their brand.
“Great brands are built from the inside out.” -Denise Lee Yohn
You say that a key leadership responsibility is the integration of culture and brand. Has this always been true? What are the best ways to accomplish this?
Brand-culture fusion has always required strong leadership from the top of the organization, but it has become more important in recent years, given the corporate culture crisis that has arisen. Leaders can no longer assume their organizations will have a healthy culture if they’re nice and decent people — it takes deliberate effort to cultivate a unique, valuable, sustainable culture.
“You must accept the challenge to lead your organization to greatness.” -Denise Lee Yohn
I first read Leadership From the Inside Out years ago. It is one of the books that helps build a foundation of knowledge for leaders. That’s why I was excited to see that it is now out in a new version with updated chapters, new case studies and stories, and even more practical exercises to help everyone achieve their leadership potential.
Author Kevin Cashman is the Global Leader of CEO & Executive Development at Korn Ferry. He has advised thousands of senior leaders across almost every industry.
We recently talked about his updated book and his leadership views.
“While spreadsheets are the language of management information, stories are the language of leadership inspiration.” -Kevin Cashman
You’re just out with a new version of Leadership From the Inside Out, a classic must-read in leadership circles. What prompted you to update it, and what’s new?
Well, thank you for endorsing it as a “must-read.” It has been humbling and fulfilling to witness the success of each edition. Twenty years ago, when the first edition came out, it was one of the first books to deeply connect personal growth to leadership effectiveness using timeless, enduring principles of human development. We had been seeing how this “grow the whole person to grow the whole leader” approach resonated in our practice with CEOs, CEO successors and executives, but at that time, there was little or no research on these principles—authenticity, self-awareness, courage, character, purpose—and their impact on results. We did the second edition in 2008 to share new stories and case studies, but also to share some of the mounting research from independent sources that was catching up with what we were seeing in the trenches. For this third edition, we felt compelled to share more abundant recent research, including a study that directly connects top leader self-awareness with organizational financial performance, a study on the results of purpose-driven leadership’s significant impact on financial growth, and more. The book is still framed in areas of mastery, but we’ve added Story Mastery and Coaching Mastery, both taking leaders to deeper levels of awareness to enhance their influence and multiply it. We updated stories and case studies and added and revised exercises and practices to sharpen relevance. This third edition is an even deeper, integrative growth experience.
“The Character-driven leader tends to emphasize service over self.” -Kevin Cashman
I’m a passionate believer in character, and your book was early to focus on this aspect of leadership. Would you comment on the centrality of character?
Leading in Character is foundational, or to use your word, “central” to Personal Mastery, which is the ongoing growth of authenticity, courage, and influence that has enduring value. It is at the heart of transformative impact and servant leadership. Both Character and Coping are present in most leadership situations. However, we need to ask ourselves, “Which one is my master, and which one is my servant?” When we are self-aware and make Character the master of our leadership and Coping the servant, we move toward better relationships with team members, customers, employees, all our stakeholders and the greater marketplace. And, we create more sustainable value. As leaders, it is essential to learn how to build our awareness of when we are being guided by Character and when we are being pushed by Coping. One CEO we worked with in our Chief Executive Institute told us that learning how to pause to make sure that values are on the table and that she and her team were leading with character has really stayed with her and been significant. She developed a systematic process of asking her team for their expert opinions, probing them to explain how they came to that opinion and whatever concerns they had. She explained that when a problem or a crisis comes along “stepping through it is grounding and everyone has the same fact base. It encourages synthesis and congruence with values.” That’s leading with Character and Authenticity.
“Purpose elevates teams to move from short-term success to long-term significance.” -Kevin Cashman
What do you think of when you hear the term servant leadership? Do you picture a workplace culture where managers and direct reports work side by side, set goals, collaborate on projects, solve problems and celebrate victories together? Or do you picture a chaotic scene from a movie where the inmates are running the prison?
If you don’t understand servant leadership, it may be because you think people can’t lead and serve at the same time. But they can, if they recognize that there are two kinds of leadership involved in servant leadership: strategic and operational.
Strategic leadership has to do with vision and direction. It’s the leadership aspect of servant leadership. Leadership is about going somewhere. If you and your people don’t know where you are going, your leadership doesn’t matter. A compelling vision ensures everyone is going in the same direction. Once the organization has a compelling vision, they can set goals and define strategic initiatives that help people know what to focus on right now. The traditional hierarchical pyramid is effective for this part of servant leadership because, while the leader should involve experienced people in helping to shape direction, the ultimate responsibility remains with the leader and cannot be delegated to others.
“The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.” –Theodore Hesburgh
As soon as people are clear on where they are going, the hierarchical pyramid is philosophically turned upside-down. Now the leader’s role shifts to a service mindset for operational leadership, which has to do with implementation. The question now is: How do we live according to the vision and accomplish the establish goals? Implementation is the servant aspect of servant leadership. It includes policies, systems, and leader behaviors that flow from senior management to frontline employees—and make it possible for people in the organization to live according to the vision and values and accomplish short-term goals and initiatives.
It may be counterintuitive, but according to Barry Kaplan and Jeff Manchester — who have decades of experience as entrepreneurs and advisers to hundreds of companies — the the best way to lead is to step back. The more that you as a leader open your heart, reveal your fears and show your authentic self, the deeper the connections among your team members will be, and the more the team will achieve.
We are taught and then hard-wired to believe that showing vulnerability is a weakness. The fear, of course, is that if we demonstrate vulnerability, others will be able to take advantage of us. This, however, is far from the truth. The reality is that, by sharing our vulnerability, we lay the groundwork for truly connecting with others – which is incredibly powerful. We need to relearn that vulnerability is gateway to authenticity, connection and ultimately power.
When is it wrong to be vulnerable and can you be too vulnerable?
Despite the power vulnerability can bring, if you’re not in a safe environment where you can leverage its power, exhibiting vulnerability may be a mistake. Safety is a necessary predicate to being able to open up, show up and co-create trust.
Leaders play a key role in creating this safe space, particularly by role modeling. As a leader, it is up to you to step in first. Show up with your real story that will disrupt the typical pattern of hiding behind the veil. By taking action, you are giving your team a real case-study of how — and more importantly, why — it works.
“The HEIGHT of a team’s performance compared to its potential is directly related to the DEPTH of connection among its members.”