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The 5 Fears Keeping you from Becoming a 21st Century Brand

By Emily Soccorsy + Justin Foster

In a recent workshop in Phoenix, we were asked the primary reason leaders don’t opt-in to becoming a 21st century brand.

Our answer caused audible gasps from our audience: FEAR.

If you are a leader over 40, you have likely reach your role or status through carefully crafted career moves; positioning yourself for the next opportunity. You’ve invested in your leadership development, nurtured relationships, made the right choices and produced results. So here you are in 2016 with all of this experience and investment — and a rising uncertainty on how apply it in the 21st century era of business.

People may call it by different names, but behind this uncertainty is plain old fear. The best way to deal with fear is to bring it into the light. Like a vampire, by shining a light on your fear, you usually vaporize it or cause it to shrink into a non-threatening amusement.

So let’s shine a light on the top 5 fears that you may be dealing with:

    1. Fear of Expression: This is the top fear by far. Many leaders over 40 have been conditioned to keep “work at work and home at home.” This strict compartmentalization no longer exists in the 21st century. Compartmentalization is a relic of the pioneer and industrial ages. This fear locks down the ability to fully maximize social media, content creation and even daily conversations. The irony is that this deep-seated fear can only be overcome through expressing! So say what needs to be said and ask what needs to be asked. Be bold! Don’t wait for bravery to be a feeling – make it an action.
    2. Fear of Rejection: Fear of rejection is directly tied to a fear of expression. “What if they don’t like what I have to say?” is what our clients usually ask. If you are speaking from the heart and someone you respect doesn’t like what you have to say, then it’s a learning opportunity to broaden thinking and a chance to have a lively discussion. If the person who does not like what you say is someone you don’t respect, then why does their opinion matter? One method to battle this fear is to stay rooted in your intention and in your area of expertise. In short, don’t brand around things you don’t believe in or don’t know enough about.
    3. Fear of Damaging Your Reputation: “What if I offend a higher-up or a customer?” is a common concern. Similar to the fear of rejection, this fear is born of an excessive focus on a near-perfect image. Whether you are an entrepreneurial leader or a corporate leader, you have learned not to do things that could damage how people see you. But leadership is not about being popular — it’s about being a trailblazer and innovating in new territory. Just like other leadership decisions you’ve made, applying a blend of common sense and courage will get you past this fear.
    4. Fear of a Lack of ROI: “Is it worth the time it takes?” How do you know the time it will take until you’ve tried to do it? Whether you are working on a personal brand or corporate brand, there is an investment. Just like in agriculture, fitness and relationships, brands don’t just happen without some nurturing. The key is to be consistent: consistently putting out meaningful content and being consistently interesting as a brand. Consistency gives your brand much higher “findability” and works for you when you are not actually working on it. And remember this: the content you don’t create and ideas you don’t share are far more expensive.
    5. Fear of Having your Ideas Stolen. If your ideas are stolen, will you stop sharing them? Artists deal with this all of the time. They deal with having their songs illegally downloaded or their art copied from the web — but they know it doesn’t make their art any less worthy. In fact it’s evidence of their power and influence. By sharing consistently and bravely, you will own the real estate of your ideas. In short, be so good and so consistent that they can never catch up to you!

Confidence leads to competence. What translates your 20th century equity to 21st century value is wisdom, new thinking and new leadership habits. When you believe in your own awesomeness, you will know your own value and you know how to apply this value in this brave new world. And the fear that was holding you back will become as relevant as the Blackberry you used to own.

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.

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