Leadership: Communicating the Difference.

andy-hall-492246-unsplashPhoto courtesy of Andy Hall on Unsplash.

Leaders articulate vision and clearly communicate the difference that they offer with their team.  Their effectiveness in doing this is akin to the trial attorney’s closing arguments with “I rest my case.”

In 1991, when Michael Jackson released a vision to the world in “Heal the World,” he cast a vision in the midst of chaotic shifts as he sang,

“Heal the world

Make it a better place

For you and for me

And the entire human race

There are people dying

If you care enough for the living

Make a better place for you and for me

And the dream we were conceived in

Will reveal a joyful face

And the world we once believed in

Will shine again in grace” (Michael Jackson, 1991; https://genius.com/Michael-jackson-heal-the-world-lyrics).  

With this song he began to make a difference with the Heal the World Foundation which provided relief to children disadvantaged through poverty, sickness, disability and loss (http://www.healtheworldforchildren.org/).  Although defunct, the message of the song remains as a clarion call for leaders advocating for change.

 When Chesley Burnett Sullenberger III (Captain Sully) safely landed US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River on January 15, 2009 he had no intention of becoming a public hero.  All he knew in those critical minutes was that both engines were disabled and he had 155 souls in his hands.  Communication with the air traffic control towers offered no viable option, so he created one and headed for the Hudson River.  All 155 persons survived (https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/a25838404/captain-sully-sullenberger-miracle-landing-ten-year-anniversary-interview/).  But, life after the crash landing was a harrowing experience as he had to face the National Transportation Safety Board and defend his decision against other successfully demonstrated simulated landings.  

Was he reckless, irresponsible, lazy, and past his time?  Ultimately, the leader emerged as Captain Sully asked one clarifying question of his judges:  “How many times did the simulators practice to make that landing?”  The answer: 17 times!  Captain Sully rested his case and his judges had to declare him a hero for getting it right in an instant.  He recognized that as the Captain, he had led his team of crew and passengers to safety.  Now, after enduring post traumatic stress disorder, Captain Sully devotes himself to enhancing safety in the aviation industry, availing himself to other pilots who have also had to make heroic crash landings too.  One of his most recent mentees is Capt. Tammie Jo Shults who successfully landed a Southwest plane after an engine exploded leaving a gaping hole in the cabin on April 17, 2018.   In October 2018, he wrote in a post for the Washington Post, “I will make myself heard at the appropriate times when it’s necessary, … that’s a kind of a duty that each of us has. We can’t be bystanders” (https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/a25838404/captain-sully-sullenberger-miracle-landing-ten-year-anniversary-interview/).

 Effective leadership does not compete with loud and angry voices attempting to villainize heroic efforts of success.  Instead, effective leaders communicate to their team that the goal is high, the road is long, and it will take all hands on deck to achieve success.

nordwood-themes-527656-unsplashPhoto courtesy of Nordwood Themes on Unsplash.

Consider two successful companies whose leaders have been able to articulate their difference.


Personal grooming generates more than $880 billion annually (Evening Standard, 2019).  And, no one knows it better than one of the leading razor brands in the United States in 2017 – Gillette.  With a brand value of 17.1 billion, and sales of 6.6 billion as at May 2018, Gillette defines personal grooming with, “The Best a Man can Get.”  How profitable?  Consider this: Razors are one of the most profitable businesses for Proctor & Gamble, Gillette’s parent company. More than 750 million men in over 200 countries use Gillette razors (Forbes, 2018; https://www.forbes.com/companies/gillette/#300db11d10a0).  And, even with competition from other brands, for 52 weeks ending June 17, 2018, Gillette Mach3 topped sales with approximately 3.3 million units sold (https://www.statista.com/statistics/194714/share-of-us-razor-sales-in-2013-by-brand/).  Why?  Because, Gillette has learned to communicate that they are the best that any man, and by extension any woman can buy for her man.  


Fitness has never been so much fun, especially at a brand value of 4 billion dollars.  Peloton is undoubtedly reinventing the  global fitness industry estimated at $83 billion.  However, they had a rocky start struggling to convince potential investors that they could successfully blend stationary bikes and live stream video classes.  Cobbling together money from more than 200 angel investors to get off the ground, Peloton has become a prized asset in just 6 years (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/03/technology/pelotons-new-infusion-made-it-a-4-billion-company-in-6-years.html).  

As the “Apple of fitness,” they offer daily classes in a studio, beamed on demand at home on a Peloton bike or directly via app to an iPhone or iPad.  Metrics like distance traveled, calories burned, heart rate, resistance and output exerted as measured in watts, are displayed on sweatproof touchscreens.  Riders can also compete against others via a leaderboard.  

With this unique combination of fitness, viewing entertainment, amazing talent, and an online community of a million strong with famous members like Michael Phelps and Neil Patrick Harris, the company grossed more than $400 million in sales in 2017!  Most of its revenues is earned from Peloton bike sales from units priced at $1,995 each and monthly subscription fees of $39 per month.  Apparel, custom shoes, and app sales generate additional revenue (Ivry, 2018; https://www.adweek.com/brand-marketing/peloton/).  And, if that’s not enough, they have released a treadmill priced around $4,000.  Having found their difference, the Peloton leaders are communicating it well and showing no signs of slowing down.

 Effective leadership continues to make its voice heard and articulate difference.  Listen out for it. Some have a dream, others have audacity, a few can close the deal, and others are still finding their way and leading others.  Can you communicate your difference?

At some time someone somewhere will look to you for leadership.  What will you say?  While you consider your response, preview some of my on-going journey in Be Prepared and more at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/KeishaAMitchellPhD and https://youtu.be/zfPWaPCJ0vE .


Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash.


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