By Emily Soccorsy + Justin Foster
There are a lot of business people who balk at the use of the term “soul.” They think it has no place in the professional world.
We think differently (but you knew that already).
To us, the most powerful type of leader is a leader who is soulful in a variety of ways — they deeply understand who they are, they are intensely aware of why their company exists, and they are fully engaged in the well-being of their first customers — their employees. We have embraced the term “spiritual intelligence” to describe these leaders: intuitive, insightful, introspective and having high initiative. They love themselves and they love people and it shows in their brands.
They are not executive box checkers. They believe and embrace the true role of a soulful leader — acting as the CSO, chief spiritual officer, of the brand. A few examples of soulful leaders to illustrate our point: Jessica Alba, Elon Musk and Howard Schultz.
Being a soulful leader is not some sort of “well isn’t that special” or something you get to after you meet your numbers. Being a soulful leader is a tremendous competitive advantage over traditional leaders who put all of their belief into the math and none into the magic.
While the idea of soul in business is rising, there’s still plenty of leaders who need to stop hitting the snooze button on finding their soul and applying it to business. To give you a little motivation to look inward, here are 5 ways being a soulful leader boosts your brand. If you’re one of these soulful bosses, enjoy and put these to work. If not, well, read on…
By communicating with message clarity. Traditional leaders hire ad agencies to tell them what their message should be in order to reach a target market. Soulful leaders speak from their hearts and this produces an endless supply of ideas, concepts and offerings. Example: Southwest Airlines speaks openly about their “soul” and their promotions are always anchored to this idea. Soulful leaders are the lead evangelist for their brand and don’t need publicists, preppers or polishers to talk about why and what they believe. They live and breath the message.
By accessing the power of organic consistency. The old model of command-and-control was designed to create efficiency and productivity. However, in the new world, this approach stifles culture and slows communication. Soulful leaders have created daily habits of innovation, empathy and value creation. This organic approach makes their organizations much more agile and functionally consistent. It allows them to fail quickly on ideas that don’t work and rapidly scale the ones that do. It also harnesses the power of their employees and customers as a living QA and R & D team.
By preventing an identity crisis. Brands carry the same traits as the people who lead them. Many established brands are dealing with an identity crisis because the individual leaders are too. The whole world has changed and they are frozen in place – not knowing who they are and how they fit in. Soulful leaders have never really had an brand identity crisis. They understand that trends come and go, so they rarely derive their value from them. Unlike their traditional counterparts, they see change as a positive – as an opportunity to evolve, grow and compete. They don’t need to have people tell them who they are – they just need to remember to return to the root of their soul.
By branding beyond a department. In top-down organizations, branding is an activity or an initiative — or maybe a strategy. To these leaders, branding has a beginning, middle and end. This thinking creates compartmentalized, check-box thinking that relegates the soul of a brand to spreadsheets and committees. But in reality, the branding effort is never done. Brands lead by soulful leaders understand this and make branding a daily habit of everyone in the organization. They understand that their personal calling is their brand. And that this brand is then reflected in the culture and the customer experience. They understand that they are stewards of the brand and view employees, customers and communities as the true “owners.”
By closing the talent gap. “Human capital” or “human assets” are the terminologies of soulless leaders who don’t see people as individuals. Further, traditional hiring models create a blind spot based on technical skill and/or the ego-driven idea that your gut is your best indicator of a good hire. Neither are true in the modern world. Soulful leaders attract believers. When someone is on fire for what they believe in and what they believe in is why their company exists, the discussion around talent attraction becomes a lot more simple. Sharing the beliefs of the organization acts as an attractant to those who believe what you believe. Talented professionals in 2016 want to work in organizations who have high cultural EQ — those that know their feelings and can express them, particularly related to why their work matters.
Keep this in mind: the role of “chief spiritual officer” does not have to be an executive title. It could be you. If you have a passion for your company’s mission, if you are the voice of hope, if you are a spokesperson for the unheard, this role might be your calling. The key is to use these 5 ways, along with your own wisdom, to build momentum in your organization.
If you are the owner/CEO and you are a soulful leader, you can be certain the advantages of command and control leadership have had their day. A new day is dawning in business and other leaders need your help to let go of old notions and embrace the truth of why they matter in this new world.
Emily Soccorsy + Justin Foster are cofounders of the intrinsic branding practice known as Root + River. Together with their defiantly different clients, they uncover then articulate the foundational elements of the brand. Then, they provide brand strategy and brand coaching as the brand is rolled out internally and externally. Obsessive about language and differentiation, Emily + Justin are also authors and speakers. Follow @rootandriver @fosterthinking and @emilyatlarge.