The Dichotomy of Life, Leadership, and Marketing
One of the Biggest Lessons I've Learned
I love the water.
I grew up near the ocean and enjoyed summers at the beach. The sound of the waves is melodic and relaxing. The cool breeze feels refreshing on those hot July and August days. But the beach has been more than a place to relax.
I’ve observed the natural rhythm of the waves:
Back and forth
Ebb and flow
Crest and trough
When I combine those observations with the entirety of my life experience, I see an incredibly valuable lesson:
That which makes us heroic can also be our greatest weakness
Let me explain.
I have the ability to be hyper-focused on my work. This helped me out quite a bit when I was in school and needed to write long papers at the end of the semester. But this natural focus can be taken to an extreme.
I think of it as a continuum:
Too much focus leads to obsession and even addiction
Too little focus leads to distraction and ineffectiveness
I’ve been on both ends of that spectrum. It’s been unhealthy, unhelpful, and generally unsuccessful. The sweet spot is in the middle.
Besides the ocean, I’ve seen similar frequencies in physics:
The pendulum swinging from side to side
The sine curve
Equal and opposite forces
The run rest cycle
And even within the spiritual realm:
Yin and yang
Balance of light and dark
Not living life to the extreme
Everything has a season
How does this relate back to leadership and marketing?
I use personal life lessons in my professional life. It may not work for everything, but this idea of dichotomy (or balance) has merit here.
If you know me well, you may have heard or read my thoughts on Servant Leadership.
Here’s a great link to learn more:
Here’s the essence of this concept:
The first word is the most important. A person who serves meets the needs of others. The servant leader chooses to take the focus off them. They choose the success of their teams above their own success. They take time to invest in the growth of people. They wholeheartedly believe that to serve is a noble and just cause.
This is a difficult sell in our modern day. People suffer a non-stop barrage of messaging that says:
Look out for number one.
Get yours while you can.
It doesn’t matter who you step on to climb that ladder
Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact,
The way we do things matters more than what we do
The wake we leave behind from our actions forms our legacy. The servant leader is careful of these considerations. They act from a place of love, caring, and understanding. This outward orientation stands out in this world and creates an environment where others thrive. Then the leader, in all humility, can rise on that same tide.
I won’t be swayed from this stance on leadership. I use it in my own life – personally and professionally. Then I teach it as well. But I do like to think about the flip side of things. I ask this important question:
Can servant leadership be taken too far?
The answer is yes. I hope this doesn’t turn you off from this style and practice of leadership though. I am simply presenting what could happen without balance.
Here’s a tweet of mine from a Twitter chat a couple of months ago:
Essentially, some people may perceive the attempts at servanthood as a weakness. They may try to “pull a fast one”, see how much they can get away with, or even try to manipulate their way out of doing the work. But here’s where the well trained and experienced leader comes in. They can discern the difference between someone who genuinely needs help and someone who is being deceptive.
It is a skill that takes time, energy, and patience to develop. It also comes with the experience of working with people and building relationships. A healthy dose of awareness doesn’t hurt either. But if we lack those, we can tap into views of trusted colleagues, mentors, and friends to help us understand ourselves and the situation better.
The heart is the strength of servant leadership but don’t let people abuse that strength
That is the dichotomy of leadership. That is the middle. That is the sweet spot.
On the marketing side of things, I’ll zero in on this trend that has been catching on within the industry:
The need for greater humanity in marketing
This trend has been the answer to the last several years of technology running rampant in marketing. The original idea was for the tech to make our lives easier. It’s done that – and a whole lot more. It’s dehumanized the whole point of marketing which is:
To connect and serve people (ties in nicely with the leadership style above)
Instead, technology has been leveraged to create misery in people’s lives. Witness the endless amounts of irrelevant advertising.
This whole topic has been of great interest to me as a leader and a student of leadership. When I look at the whole point of leadership, it comes down to one word really:
So the overlap between these two subjects is quite interesting. When we remove people from the equation we get those generic and bland emails (sometimes with “insert name here” instead of our actual name). We get garbage sales pitches in our direct message boxes on Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. We get marketing that is only interested in pushing people down a funnel. It’s marketing that attempts to wring every last penny from people.
That doesn’t feel great on the receiving end, so why do we use that tactic? Because someone somewhere came up with some data that said it works. But does it really? My mantra in business is and always will be:
Treat people with respect and dignity; not like a number
That is a trend that will never go out of style.
Yet, I like to ask the question:
How much is too much humanity?
At first, you might think my answer would be “it is never too much.” But I like to dig a little deeper on this. I have a bias toward humanity but I can also see where this might cause some issues.
I don’t want to see humanity go backward. We don’t have to ditch all our computers and smart devices. We don’t have to disown all the MarTech (marketing technology we use to enhance our abilities to respond to customers and clients).
The technology is there to supplement our human efforts to connect and serve people. We have goals and targets as businesses (or nonprofits) and people power is a limited resource. I get that. People in today’s knowledge economy cannot be expected to sit there doing boring and tedious tasks all day long. They won’t do it for long. They will quit instead. So the technology is warranted on those occasions.
In fact, this may be the more human thing to do
I am not advocating all tech, all the time. I am saying the tech – when used correctly – is a blessing and a benefit to us all. It’s hard to say what the exact amount may be for a brand, business, organization, or corporation. It’s trial and error. Test, measure, learn and repeat.
Is it an even split? 50% automation and 50% real life engagement?
This is probably not the best idea when talking about solopreneurs and small businesses. Smaller numbers result in a higher expectation for real connection. The larger the company or organization, the more they will have to rely on the technology. The numbers get too large.
But don’t abandon humanity in marketing. People are attracted to genuine engagement online
So we come back to this idea of balance. If I leave you with anything, I want to leave you with these three ideas:
Balance in life: the overuse or misuse of our strengths can be a huge weakness
Balance in leadership: loving and caring for our people has healthy limitations
Balance in marketing: we do still need the tech to help us out
Thanks so much for reading today!
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I’ve been helping leaders become better marketers for over 21 years and would love to help you take the next step in your spiritual leadership journey.