The IABC world conference 2013 is offering a mix of content suited to various disciplines in the communication profession. Some topics that have stood out over the past two days: transformative leadership, creative intelligence (the CQ that defines our own brand) and brand authenticity, to name but a few.

Transformative leadership
Monday’s discussion around the art of leadership set the tone on what it takes to be a great leader. We had a look at the three channels for leadership communication and a key takeout is summarized in this quote by Tom Peters: “The best leaders almost without exception, and at every level, are master users of stories and symbols”.

Top tips for compelling leadership communication included being adaptive, focusing more on the how and the why, then the what, sharpening delivery skills  – a brilliant example being the communication styles of Bill Gates vs Steve Jobs.

Leadership as a theme continued yesterday with a conversation on transformative leadership with a panel of CEOs that included Bill McDermott (SAP), Shelly Lazarus (Ogilvy), superhero Peter Cuneo (Marvel) and my personal favourite, Dolf van den Brink (Heineken). The discussion was led by Robert Reiss from the CEO show, who started off by posing the question, what makes a company great. The answer: Love! (and we all silently started humming, ‘what’s love gotta do with it…’) You see great leaders unleash the spirit of the individual and company – and that’s love.

Other lessons: transformative leaders create new value, reinvent, reinvigorate and reboot; transformative leaders are authentic and inspire collaboration by understanding the power of conversation.

Some of my favourite thoughts and quotes from this session:

To inspire you need to move beyond functional. Employees need to know that what they’re doing has a higher purpose. Your employees care and your customers care.

As a leader ask yourself if we weren’t around would it matter?

Stop being in love with the past – you need to roll the way the world wants you to roll!

You don’t join the league to come in second place – big bold goals inspire people to get out of their comfort zone and live up to their true potential. Leaders need to put people on their teams who have the same big bold goals. That’s the only way to win. People who are passionate and have desire.

The most important thing a leader can do is to lift the culture – every person needs to be proud of and want to be part of a special team.

There is no best practice for internal leadership communication. It is only about authenticity.

Culture eats strategy for lunch!

It’s not about talking your way into a culture, it’s about acting it.

As a South African, and in keeping with this theme of leadership, this article is a great illustration of the leadership lessons discussed yesterday, and lived by the most transformative and greatest leader of our time.

Creative intelligence
Sunday’s session on Hyperthinking set the tone for creativity. This continued on Monday where we were challenged to relearn how to think like six year olds. The lesson: we are all creative, we just need to tap into our own creative style – and if you think this should be left to be left to the creative types, you are wrong. Creative Intelligence is the new IQ/EQ – and it matters most. If you need the facts, the IBM CEO survey indicated that creativity is the most critical competency for future success.

John Cleese on creativity (more than 20 years ago!) sums it up best in this video clip.

Brand authenticity
“Authenticity” has been the buzz word at the conference. As Scott Windsor said on Monday, “your employees know BS” – and your customers do too (even more so if they’re Millennials).

Brand authenticity is about transformative leadership. It is about using tools, such as compelling imagery to emotionally connect with audiences. It’s about rewarding those Ta Da moments. It’s about remembering that people forget what you say, forget what you do, but they never forget how you make them feel. It’s about immersive design that makes stories memorable and inspiring.

Connie Birdsall from Lippincott, in sharing the Starbucks rebrand story, said a brand is owned by everyone across the leadership team and throughout the organization. Your brand is embedded across every interaction with employees, customers, community.

Listening to the Starbucks case study what really stood out for me was that in defining their brand differentiators, they include “engaging employees” as a critical differentiator in their brand essence. A lesson a lot of organizations can learn from, because an authentic brand voice speaks from the inside out.

As an aside – the Starbucks session raised some discussion about whether the brand is achieving it’s essence (creating moments of connection). As a South Africa, we don’t have a Starbucks at every corner, but something that connected with me, was being asked my name to call out my order, rather than a number – and in fact it stood out so much so, that I mentioned it in a call home (and this was prior to attending the session). My opinion is that this one personalized interaction made the brand authentic for me, it created a moment of connection, that got me talking about it – that is brand power.

In building an authentic brand, organizations need to ask themselves:

Is our story powerful enough, have we innovated our brand experience at every touchpoint?

Are we leveraging the power of great design?

Are our employees energized and equipped to deliver?

 

Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Click here for all the twitter conversations and get a sense of what’s been going down.