Dream Big and Achieve More: Lessons From a Nobel Peace Prize Winner

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Written by Luis Gallardo

I’ve known a lot of visionaries in my life, but none have understood how big dreams lead to unbridled achievement like Kailash Satyarthi, co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize.

A Nobel Prize seems like a big accomplishment, but the soft-spoken laureate didn’t let the award go to his head. The tireless advocate returned immediately to his mission to end child slavery. To date, the 61-year-old Indian’s Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement) has rescued more than 80,000 children from bonded labor.

Never have I encountered someone who is so committed to his cause. Even after repeated attacks on his life and multiple murdered colleagues, Satyarthi refuses to back down from his stand against child slavery. It’s a level of dedication that reminds me of Olympic athletes training for decades to perfect their craft.

Satyarthi might not be a businessman by trade, but we business leaders have much to learn from his compassion, dedication and imagination.

From Peace Prize to professionals: Here is what Satyarthi has taught me about working hard and reaching higher:

1. DON’T STOP AT SUCCESS; KEEP DREAMING

Although Satyarthi has rescued more than 80,000 children from slavery since the 1980s, he still isn’t satisfied. He outlined an ambitious plan when speaking to the United States Institute of Peace this past June — Satyarthi now wants to mobilize 100 million people to become champions for the 168 million children worldwide who are enslaved in child labor.

How does this apply to business? Look at Google. Google became famous for its search engine — and its leaders probably could have stopped there if they simply sought fame and fortune. But the tech giant has debuted Google Earth, is testing Google Glass, and has created the first self-driving car. How’s that for dreaming bigger?

2. CREATE THE FUTURE YOU WANT

Satyarthi realized that ending child labor would take strategic planning — not just dangerous forays into illicit factories that employ child slaves. His 360-degree perspective led him to found GoodWeave, which aims to pull the rug out from underneath child labor by offering consumers certified child labor-free carpets while employing skilled adult artisans.

Don’t focus solely on your own business — create an entirely new future in which you want it to operate. Take Muhammad Yunus, another Nobel Peace Prize laureate turned social entrepreneur. Muhammad rethought banking by pioneering microfinance with the social startup Grameen Bank, which offers credit to entrepreneurs in developing countries who are too poor for traditional bank loans.

3. MAKE IT PERSONAL

When I listen to Satyarthi speak to leaders, children, or just about anyone interested in his cause, I always notice something — he might be soft-spoken, but he could not be more personally invested in his mission. I’ve heard him tell children, “You’re not the leaders of the future; you’re the leaders of the present.”

Satyarthi’s teachings have showed me that you don’t need to be a CEO to lead in business. It’s easy to feel powerless at a large company of thousands of people or to make excuses for why you can’t do something. But here’s a secret: You have more power than you think you do. It’s about making change where you are now, no matter what role you play at your company.

4. DO THE GRUNT WORK

Satyarthi doesn’t ask anyone to do anything he wouldn’t do himself. He has led raids himself, and he’s had his shoulders and back broken while trying to rescue children. As an organizer and participant in the Global March Against Child Labor, millions of marchers have followed in Satyarthi’s literal footsteps. The 80,000-kilometer march, which began in 1998, has spanned 103 countries and has drawn praise from leaders around the globe.

Satyarthi never would have attained the following he did if he weren’t willing to get his hands dirty. In business, this is the best way to breed trust with your team. If you show people you’re willing to do any task — no matter how menial or basic — you’ll attract a following of believers.

REFLECTING, TEACHING AND LEARNING

Even though Satyarthi’s heart lies with humanitarian work, he taught me one more business secret: Every successful journey must include rest and reflection. Here’s how you can look back on your achievements and enable them to boost you even higher.

When your team has worked hard to reach a goal, it’s time to celebrate. It doesn’t have to be a boisterous, loud celebration — Satyarthi was happy to win the Nobel Prize, but there was no shouting or crying when he learned about it in his unremarkable South Delhi office. No matter how your team celebrates, everyone needs the headspace to reflect, rethink, and look toward bigger goals.

Another good way to gauge your success involves teaching. Before Satyarthi decided to devote his life to ending child labor, he taught eager-eyed students as a professor of engineering in Bhopal. Kailash knows sharing what you’ve learned doesn’t just help others; it allows you to understand your own experiences and goals much more thoroughly.

The flip side of this involves learning. When I travel with Satyarthi, I’m always struck by his boundless curiosity. It’s this spirit that enables him to never be satisfied with his current knowledge or his current success.

In the end, Satyarthi hasn’t just taught me to dream — he’s taught me to always factor others into my dreams. From there, it’s a matter of having the courage and determination to make those dreams happen — Satyarthi had his limbs broken and didn’t quit on his dreams. Take a cue from Satyarthi to shrug off adversity, reach higher, and never forget about the welfare of others.

3 Communication Lessons Businesses Can Learn From Donald Trump

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Written by Luis Gallardo

Everyone knows who Donald Trump is. Pundits love to talk about him, his name comes up in conversations with co-workers and his ornate properties are popular tourist attractions. But how, exactly, has he managed to slingshot himself to the forefront of everyone’s minds?

As controversial and polarizing as Donald Trump might be, he’s clearly doing something right in getting his message to the public. So what are the trump cards of his communication strategy?

 

1. Differentiate yourself from the competition.

Trump’s strategy for securing the Republican nomination centers on setting himself apart from the rest of the GOP candidates. Trump has ruffled feathers by boldly calling this nation’s political leadership “incompetent leaders” and “horrible people,” and he’s embattled in an ongoing feud with Sen. Lindsey Graham, even giving out Graham’s personal phone number. By distancing himself from the political establishment, Trump is gaining street cred with disgruntled GOP voters.

He’s certainly garnered attention from the media, but it’s not all positive. The Huffington Post rebuked Trump’s campaign, stating its coverage of Trump’s political affairs would reside strictly in the entertainment section of its website. The publisher’s note about the matter simply said, “Trump’s campaign is a sideshow. We won’t take the bait.”

Entrepreneurs, ensure you’re standing out from the crowd but not so much that the industry — or, worse, the customer — doesn’t take you seriously. Try to strike a healthy balance: Be edgy, not outrageous.

 

2. Seek opportunities for publicity.

Although many of Trump’s comments have been met with derision, they have landed him on more than one news program. There are good and bad points to this strategy. By attracting the press, he validates his campaign and ensures his name is at the forefront of people’s minds.

On the other hand, he’s not on these shows because of the strength of his proposed policies. Often, Trump’s press appearances follow his racist or inflammatory remarks and some such comments have led companies he’s worked with — ranging from Univision to Macy’s — to drop him completely.

When given the chance to promote your business, take a look at why you’re being spotlighted. Is it because of the good work your company is doing, or is it because you said something you shouldn’t have to the wrong person? Despite the old adage, not all press is good press.

 

3. Create an indisputable reputation.

Any successful communications strategy has a well-defined purpose. It’s not necessarily clear that Trump’s purpose is to win the presidency. Rather, it might be to build his existing persona as a reality TV star and business magnate. Trump is worth billions of dollars and starred in NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice for 14 seasons, though NBC is currently looking to replace Trump after his recent racist comments. He is a salesman, and although it might be unclear what he’s selling, it’s definitely a Trump product.

And this salesmanship makes humility difficult to achieve. A Weber Shandwick survey found that well-regarded CEOs are six times more likely than CEOs with less-than-stellar reputations to be perceived as humble — and that’s important in a business environment where the phrase “CEO humility” is on the rise.

Considering Trump’s combative personality, great personal wealth and high ambitions, it’s easy to see why Trump is making enemies. He’s a threat to Republican candidates because he’s drawing attention away from their campaigns, and he’s a threat to businesspeople because he’s successful and prominent in his industry. The question remains whether he can be successful without any friends in the business.

Trump has proven it’s possible to be successful and daring all at once. To sustain long-term success, you should think of your brand as an extension of your personality and ideals — just make sure your brand is receiving attention for the right reasons.

Even if this is the last presidential race we see Trump in, he likely won’t disappear from the spotlight for long. Whether or not he can win the presidency remains to be seen, but he’s certainly got a knack for getting people’s attention — take a close look at his communication strategy to take your own brand to center stage.

 

Previously published in Entrepreneur.com

Is There Life Left in LIVESTRONG? 3 Leadership Tactics for Combatting Adversity

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Written by Luis Gallardo

LIVESTRONG was one of the most popular and profitable nonprofit brands in the 1990s and 2000s. Lance Armstrong, the company’s founder, was world-renowned and well-loved. From its name to its yellow visual identity to its purpose and goals, the company was built by and for Armstrong. But when he was stripped of his titles in 2012, all of that changed.

The company spiraled into a haze of negative publicity with a living founder facing major credibility and reputational issues.

This year, LIVESTRONG welcomes Chandini Portteus as its new CEO. But her entrance also begs the question: How does a new CEO step in and overcome the adversity that rocked its founder and scattered its advocates to the wind? How can a once-golden organization rebrand itself and reclaim its audience?

In Portteus’ case, and in the case of any brand that needs to overcome a PR disaster, the future of the company depends on recreating a strong sense of purpose and belonging for its people, its relationships, and its brand.

SEPARATING COMPANY FROM CONTROVERSY

Some companies have successfully reenergized and refocused their organizations with the help of new leadership. But it doesn’t happen by accident; it takes strategy, passion, and commitment. From a company’s perspective, there are three important things that must be done on the path of brand reconstruction:

1. Put the right people in place.

Selecting the right CEO is key to repositioning andrebranding an institution. It falls to the board of directors to gather the right evaluative criteria and secure the best possible leadership for the situation.In LIVESTRONG’s case, the board has decided that Portteus is the right CEO for the organization. She brings a youthful energy to the company and has extensive experience in the cancer space as former CEO of Susan G. Komen. Companies seeking to recover from a downturn need to complete the selection process after carefully evaluating the needs of the company and its customers.

2. Redefine strategic relationships.

Once a CEO is in place, she should have a knack for quickly and deeply understanding a company’s organizational structure and plotting out a course for change. This will often include strategic alliances and partnerships that set the company on a new path — such as when Puig, a fashion and fragrance group, celebrated its 100th anniversary by collaborating with woodworking artists and architects to create unique experiences for its customers.Portteus is hard at work separating LIVESTRONG from its past controversy by bringing the public eye to LIVESTRONG’s new authenticity and unique purpose. Her first move? A 10-year, $50 million partnership with the University of Texas at Austin to live out LIVESTRONG’s renewed focus on cancer.

3. Change the brand — and the color.

Unfortunately, the LIVESTRONG yellow branding is inseparable from its founder. And because the founder is out for a reason, the brand will eventually need to embrace a new brand identity. The steps along this path will require Portteus to engage with all key stakeholders — fromemployees to donors and beneficiaries to partners — to develop a change management strategy that rebuilds the whole institution.Portteus’ process will carry similar challenges to CEO Steve Easterbrook’s rebranding of McDonald’s. Where McDonald’s once prided itself on providing cheap fast food, dwindling sales have forced the company to make a progressive change. To regain customer trust, Easterbrook plans to revamp the chain’s image by removing red tape, improving food quality, and increasing the company’s franchising efforts. But his efforts have been met with a healthy dose of skepticism.By the end of their terms, both Portteus and Easterbrook will be solely responsible for inspiring long-term, high-risk branding changes in their organizations.

EMPOWERING CEOS TO TAKE ACTION

Once a company appoints a new CEO, it needs to step back and let that person take over. The new CEO is accountable for filling out her own effective team, brainstorming the right relationships to pursue, and guiding the new brand formation.

And it’s the CEO’s job to live out the company’s new purpose in a way that engages the champions of the future organization, replacing past adversity with a renewed sense of hope.

This kind of commitment doesn’t come without risk or sacrifice. Just ask Burberry’sAngela Ahrendts, who has led the company through closures, layoffs, and leadership changes over the past seven years as she realigned the company with its iconic trench coat and outerwear line. Fully embracing her leadership role, Ahrendts was able to navigate the company through that lack of focus and into a healthier bottom line.

CEOs seeking to pull off this massive shift must become fully aware of their surroundings. They need to analyze their own strengths and weaknesses as well as those of the organization and established processes. Otherwise, they run the risk of making cultural mistakes. Ignoring situational and environmental warning signs can be a significant barrier to success.

Is it too late for LIVESTRONG? Definitely not. And if a brand as badly damaged as LIVESTRONG can find a way to rebuild and rebrand, the rest are out of excuses. Placing the right leadership in power, calling attention to a new vision, and securing strategic partnerships can help any company beat overwhelming odds.

Was published in CEO World Magazine.