The Anger That Drives Iconic Leaders (and Brands)


Last night, Brandstone had the distinct honor of welcoming Dave Logan to the CORE: club in midtown Manhattan for a fascinating discussion on "Iconic Leadership."  

You may remember that Dave's book, “Tribal Leadership,” was the work that set in motion our own evolution into Brandstone nearly a year ago.  So as you can imagine, bringing him together at CORE: with ~50 members of our own extended tribe was an "iconic" moment for Brandstone.

Tonight's topic was an exploration of the darker side of leadership: the areas of great leaders' psyches that tend to be less admired, less celebrated, but are no less important to their success.   Dave theorized that great leaders – from Dr. King to Gandhi, from Steve Jobs to Mother Theresa – all share a common characteristic.

Don't Just Get Mad, Use Mad...

 Dave drives home a point... 

Dave drives home a point... 

Iconic leaders are deeply in touch with something about the world that outrages them…that they just can’t let go. They have been pushed to their limit by a particular problem and steadfastly refuse to be pushed any farther. When challenged by associates on the wisdom of their stance, they typically utter something paraphrasing the famous words of another iconic leader, Martin Luther, who felt he had reached his limit with the dictums of the Catholic Church: "Here I stand. I can do no other."  

For Jobs, it was technology that lacked aesthetics.  For Dr. King, it was racial inequality. For Mother Theresa, it was lack of compassion for the poor.  In each case, these and other iconic leaders drew a line…and actually got angry.  But they didn’t just stay angry. What made them highly effective in inspiring and leading others was that they were able to use that anger… to combine it with their own unique gifts and passions to convince others that they should set their own limits of acceptability.

 Full House at CORE: for Dave Logan

Full House at CORE: for Dave Logan

So the question was turned to the business leaders in the room: What makes you angry? What’s the thing that you’re no longer willing to tolerate? The thing you find so abhorrent that you refuse to be pushed any farther? The thing that you’re willing to launch a movement over?

Dave challenged the crowd to consider those questions through the lens of their own organizations and then closed with this provocative and powerful thought: once you find the answer, get angry. But don’t stop there: use your anger. Use it constructively (think “slow-burn” vs. “explosion”) to lead your organization with passion, purpose and clarity. Set a shining – if not simmering – example through your actions as well as your words.

Can Iconic Brands Learn from Iconic Leaders?
For Brandstone, there were several fascinating take away messages from Dave's talk, but perhaps none more than the idea that the same passion – the same outrage – that powers an organization’s leadership can and should be driven into and reflected by its brand.  

Steve Jobs' refusal to let technology be ugly is clearly part of Apple's identity.  Thomas Watson's refusal to let business processes be limited by the status quo of physical workers led IBM to adopt its mantra of "Think" and is reflected today in their "Smarter Planet" branding.  And Herb Kelleher's outrage that only the wealthy could afford air travel led to the founding of Southwest Airlines and lives in their tagline today: "You Are Now Free to Move About the County."

Iconic Brands and Iconic Leaders go hand in hand.  So what makes you angry? What is it that you refuse to tolerate even one more day?


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