Staying on Brand: My Life is My Message
I think the more transparent that the world gets, enabled largely by technology, the more important it is that you are what you appear to be.
Nancy Koehn is a historian at the Harvard Business School where she holds the James E. Robison chair of Business Administration. Koehn's research focuses on how leaders, past and present, craft lives of purpose, worth, and impact.
Her new book, Forged in Crisis: The Power of Courageous Leadership in Turbulent Times is an enthralling historical narrative filled with critical leadership insights that will be of interest to a wide range of readers—including those in government, business, education, and the arts—Forged in Crisis spotlights five masters of crisis: polar explorer Ernest Shackleton; President Abraham Lincoln; legendary abolitionist Frederick Douglass; Nazi-resisting clergyman Dietrich Bonhoeffer; and environmental crusader Rachel Carson.
Koehn is the author of numerous books, articles, and Harvard Business School cases. She writes frequently for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Harvard Business Review Online. She is also a weekly commentator on National Public Radio and has appeared on many national television programs. She has spoken at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Aspen Ideas Festival, and in many other venues.
A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Stanford University, Koehn earned a Master of Public Policy from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government before taking her MA and PhD in History from Harvard. She lives outside Boston and is a dedicated equestrian.
The most effective tool we have to build our own brands is literally how we lead our life.
So, I believe it was Gandhi who said, “My life is my message.” Our life is our message. So, what we do with our time and our energy, how credible our own purpose seems, how we tell others about that credibility and that purpose. How we insight and you know, enthusiasm and energy of others for what we are up to, those are all the building blocks of a great brand whether you’re selling coffee or tea or Facebook. They’re the great building blocks of our own distinctiveness and the use of that distinctiveness.
I think the more transparent that the world gets, enabled largely by technology, the more important it is that you are what you appear to be. So brands suffer the biggest falls when the promises they have made, I’m thinking about company brands. When the promises that they made turn out to be very much at odds with how they are doing business or what their product really is. I mean, think about Nike many years ago and Child Labor Laws. That was a huge tumble for that brand and in some ways, they never quite recovered.
Or Ford and Firestone in the whole debacle about who was responsible for accidents in the Explorer. Companies and individuals, in an age when we all live in glass houses, have to understand that people are looking to individuals and institutions that are clean and effective and doing something that they regard as important and are worthwhile.
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