We learn brand leadership lessons from failure as much as success.
In Australia, a recent Queensland State Premier, Campbell Newman, lead the LNP ruling party to a massive loss of 40 parliamentary seats. The LNP’s rival, the ALP, had held only 9 seats against the LNPs 73 seats before the Queensland state election. There are only 89 seats in Queensland’s state parliament.
This massive swing against the ruling party happened in less than 3 years of politics. In Australian politics it has been extremely rare that a ruling first term party would lose a second term, let alone lose such a large margin.
No matter your view on the various political parties and allegiances, the question has to be asked, "What happened?"
There are many influences on a result like this.
At Blirt, we’re interested in the relationship between brand, leadership functions and external communication. So this is what I'll focus on.
Sometimes, hundreds of small tactical mistakes can be traced back to a big contextual error. Just like an airline pilot who plots a course 5 degrees off and ends up on the wrong side of the world, a leader can mix up a context and create a disastrous outcome.
When you get context wrong, or out of order, it’s just like wearing gloves on your feet and shoes on your hands.
It never ends well.
Use Vision to Unify - Strategy to Differentiate
In my view, Mr Newman got the contexts of Vision and Strategy mixed up. This had a dramatic result in execution. Newman and the LNP ended up on the wrong side of the world wearing gloves on their feet and shoes on their hands.
There are three functions a leader must deliver on;
- Cast Vision
- Set Strategy
- Execute Results
And, they must flow in that order. (You can read more on this here.)
A plan isn’t a vision. A plan is a functional set of initiatives which achieve an end game - a strategic position.
A vision is a unifying picture of what tomorrow can be like.
The Newman Government campaigned strongly (pun intended) on ‘A stronger plan for Queensland’.
Here’s where it went wrong in the communication campaign;
The LNP sold a divisive Vision.
They should have sold a unifying vision with a differentiating strategy.
They forgot to do the unifying vision bit. Oops. The result was extraordinary and a great lesson on leadership and communication.
If you only focus on strategic plans and outcomes, human nature is to automatically assume that’s your vision.
Therefore, by default you are casting a cold vision. You’re missing the eggs in the cake, the oxygen in the tank, the warmth in the smile, the caffeine in the coffee.
Your missing the purpose in the vision communication.
Brand Principle - It is through Vision we bring a Brand’s Purpose to life.
(You can read more about the relationship on brand and vision here)
The purpose of the LNP is clearly outlined in some of their principles;
- “A just and humane society…."
- “The family as the primary institution for fostering values on which a cohesive society is built…."
- “Equal opportunity for all Queenslanders….."
- “The encouragement and facilitation of wealth so that all may enjoy…..”
The LNP never brought these principles to life in a unifying vision for all Queenslanders. The story of a greater Queensland together was never told.
When you sell a plan or a strategy without a clear unifying vision, by default you will sell division. This was evidenced by the sense of disillusionment, coldness and even hate seen around the community by voters and stirred up by other candidates.
Plans only matter when they support a clear vision.
Leadership & Communication Principle - Differentiate on Strategy, After Unifying On Vision.
It’s good to differentiate but do so under a visionary context. People need to be with you before you direct them.
Differentiation is important. At some point, people need to understand how you differentiate against the competition. But, here's the thing - nobody cares how different you are if you have no relevance to them. Relevance comes from vision - people buy in to vision.
President Obama and the US Democratic Party applied this principle brilliantly in the 2008 US Presidential campaign. Obama had a very clear set of differentiating plans to achieve a very different strategy to Sen John McCain and the Republicans, but Obama bought relevance through Vision.
Even people who didn't necessarily like all Obama's plans still voted because they believed in the vision which was cast.
As you set your strategy and begin to articulate a clear positioning within the marketplace or community, the differences articulated must connect back to how you create that better vision.
As you articulate your differences, or competitive advantages, do so through a clear positioning story which shows how this difference brings about a unifying vision.
Brand Principle - Competitive Advantages are brought alive through Strategy & Strategic Positioning, under the context of Vision.
This is why strategy, differentiation and positioning always come after vision in your contextual thinking.
Premier Newman and the LNP clearly misread the community and their expectations but more importantly they constructed their communications wildly out of context. This left a Premier without a job and wearing gloves on his feet and shoes on his hands.
It didn't end well for the LNP in Queensland, Australia.
What's the take away?
- Get your brand purpose connected to your Vision.
- Cast a clear unifying vision.
- Get your brand positioning clear in your strategy & strategic positioning.
- Cast a clear and differentiating story after unifying your customers, community and stakeholders about how life is better through your vision.
Only then, when you execute, will the results start to tip in your favour.