Authenticity and Vulnerability Build Stronger Brands, Teams

When we think of leadership, vulnerability is the last leg of a stool you might expect to support teams. However, when speaking to three leaders across the communications industry, vulnerability seemed to be the secret ingredient to foster strong leadership and quality customer service.

Dr. Bill Withers, a professor in the Department of Journalism and Communication at Wartburg College in Waverly, IA., has studied, consulted and written about Quality Customer Service (QCS) for more than a decade. His blog, Faith. Lead. Serve., explores leadership topics about faith groups and large corporations. Having worked with four- and five-star organizations, Withers says, “Those organizations and their people all have a fundamental understanding of ‘excellence.’ They hire and train people with high EQs, not to meet – but exceed expectations, and they want every encounter to be an experience.”

A culture in which employees feel empowered to exceed expectations takes creative leadership. For some teams, that means a platform for expression. Not just creative expression, but a safe place for team members to be authentic. Erica Hanna, an Emmy award-winning producer and founder at Puke Rainbows Creative in Minneapolis, MN, and Kristin Darga, author and founder at Impact Founder, are two leaders in the creative community who serve that need. Hanna and Darga practice what they preach – authenticity and vulnerability.

Our Discussion on Creative Leadership

Darga created Impact Founder, an outlet and eventually a book where entrepreneurs could have raw conversations about what running and starting a business was really like. Darga said, “As a business owner, I can’t deny the direct correlation between my health, happiness, creativity and the growth of my business.”  Impact Founder became a platform where founders could connect and share stories of their personal success and failure.

Hanna grew in popularity across the Minneapolis and national blogging scene after openly and honestly expressing her thoughts on a variety of topics from human rights to mental health. As a director, producer and editor, Hanna’s work is an expression of her own authenticity. “Saying it and actually doing it are two completely different things,” she said. “Showing that struggle and transparency sometimes is exactly what the consumer needs.”

Three Takeaways

  1. Create a culture of excellence: Organizations known for Quality Customer Service create a culture of excellence.
  1. Speak up and share: Empowering teams and providing a safe platform for authentic conversations can help those who are having creative ups and downs. Team members who open up to others are often perceived as leaders.
  1. Embrace vulnerability and authenticity: In an era of overwhelming content, brands need to become comfortable with sharing authentic stories so they can stand out in the crowd.

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