The strategic importance of winning the battle for the hearts and minds

November 9, 2014

I have many business rivals. Some of them are vicious and they would like nothing better than to see me packing up and disappearing like a traveling circus. But despite their best efforts to combine their resources to boot me out…..they don’t seem to be very successful.

I on the otherhand despite my pocket battleship Bismark size seem to be very successful in piquing their high blood pressure and triggering heart attacks.

My business strategy is simple: where they are strong and numerous….I will avoid them. Where they are few and weak and do not dare to go….there is where I sow the seeds of their downfall by systematically destroying their capacity to exert command and control. To weaken their chain of command till it becomes impossible for them to read the terrain and prevailing sentiments accurately.

One reason for my business rivals lack of success simply boils down to difference in lifestyle and attitudes. I cycle. They don’t. They’re all cursed with 99.9% body fat. I have 5%. They have zero hand and eye coordination. I have perfect pitch. They like to throw dinners where everyone goes just for a free meal. I get invited to eat because people like to hear stories of my travels.

Under normal circumstances being an avid cyclist doesn’t confer one a competitive advantage. But since the bicycle to me is not just a mode of transportation. As it is a magic carpet to connect with my community. Thru the years, I have managed to successfully fashion the humble two wheeler into a very effective propaganda chariot. As since this machine can go where cars can never go – It allows me to reach deep and silently into the inner sanctum of the kampung heartlands. Since cycling is a much more sociable form of transport. One can stop often and chit chat with the many kampung folk. When one is hermetically sealed in a big and expensive car, it is very difficult to make this sort of deep spirited connection spontaneously – but when one is ridding a humble bicycle which doesn’t come with any trappings of wealth or status, it makes it far easier for kampung folk to take to man – their guard is lowered.

I find with the bicycle it is not only possible for me to cover a larger constituency but it’s also a great way of soliciting camaraderie amongst young and old since many would often offer me a cool drink, invite me into their huts for a meal or just stop to chat.

The war of the hearts and minds is ultimately a long drawn out battle of attrition.

We will win!

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‘We live today in an increasingly fault finding, cynical and jaded society. It’s a pathology where most people these days are increasingly mistrustful of figures of authority.

That to me is perfectly natural because if you look at what has transpired socially and economically in the last ten to fifteen years – it’s a really a litany of broken promises and what I can only described as unfulfilled aspirations. The public these days no longer trust big corporations to act in their best interest, not after the debacle of the last financial crisis. Neither do they trust politicians either, as they have been let down time and time again by empty promises and self serving policies.

So what we have these days is a chronic lack of trust quotient for traditional figures of authority. Leaders no longer command the priori respect they once did. If they think they still do. They are seriously misinformed and possibly delusional. To me this is not necessarily a bad thing – as it’s conceivable the public consciousness is finally growing a brain. Either that or they’re becoming so open minded, their brains are spilling out.

Paradoxically in an effort to deal with society’s terminal skepticism, leaders these days seem to be reinforcing failure instead of leveraging on their imagination to reinventing themselves. This they do by putting their faith in the wonder weapon of hype and spin. So these days, we have a curious situation where it’s not unusual to come across leaders who much prefer using mind boggling adjectives like ‘right sizing,’ instead of ‘down sizing.’ Or ‘better calibrate’ to ‘better managed.’ Etc etc etc.

But the irony is even with this additional sophistication of hype and spin leaders don’t nearly increase their credibility quotient as much as ending up being labelled as phoney’s and flake’s. And when that happens it’s very natural for people to tune out….go the other way….or simply switch off. As since the message comes across as trite, processed, kitsch and two dimensional. There is really no basis no to even forge common ground let alone reach out to make a deep spirited connection.

That’s why the public these days are gravitating towards the authentic. They want real things….real experiences…real stories and most importantly real leaders who they can really trust. And this means leaders these days need to be mindful in the way they communicate to the general public.

I mean these days if you say something, it’s probably going to be challenged in the public square whether you like it or not. You could for example tell everyone that a degree is not necessary to be successful. But you certainly can’t prevent many from asking – why then do you send your kids to university instead of steering them to be a machinist or plumber? Others who may suffer from terminal askance may even go as far as to lampoon that idea by saying, talking about the glorious life of the tradesman without ever once discussing the preponderant role of unions and how they have reliably and single handedly elevated the status of tradesmen is like talking about baking cakes without ever once discussing eggs.

So my point is leaders these days aren’t nearly living in the age of the ideal quorum as they are in an increasingly suspicious and mistrustful world – where most people would not even give them the benefit of the doubt that they’re honest and genuine.

This just underscores the importance a creating an authentic persona. I am not saying for one moment that projection of self is real or that it may even bear the slightest resemblance to one’s character. All I am saying is leaders these days are increasingly challenged to find their own personal niche branding to win the battle of the hearts and minds.

I have found the best way to accomplish this is by just stripping it right down to the chassis – after all if everyone out there is resorting to endless hype and spin and I do the same…then how can I possibly differentiate myself from the competition to race ahead of the pack? To just strive to be comfortable in your own skin. That’s a very good place to start I reckon because no one can ever be you…it’s you and it’s as authentic as it can get …only understand this! It all comes with the imperfection of warts and all….but one thing is assured…it’s definitely you!

The perverse result of being authentic could well be: one actually means what one says…..one will actually have to deliver what one promises…..and it’s conceivable one may even have to stand and be challenged by others on what once said or did instead of just throwing out smoke and mirrors all the time – that to me is really what leadership is all about. If one believes otherwise….then one would do well to step aside.’

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