It’s no secret that if you want to be a more courageous leader, you need to act more courageously. Just as improving self-discipline requires discipline and the only way to focus better is to focus better, leading with courage works the same way. In his new book Return On Courage: A Business Playbook for Courageous Change, Ryan Berman introduces us to courage brands.
When leaders clarify their values and use them as guiding principles for decision making, they find themselves leading with courage. Companies are similar. For example, in 2008 the Domino’s Pizza franchise had a minor challenge: their pizza was awful. This may be equated to showing up to a gunfight with a gun that doesn’t work. To remedy this, the President of Domino’s sent a courageous message to customers and admitted that the company ranked low on product scores—right next to “awful.”
Yet strangely, when people tasted the pizza in somebody else’s box, they enjoyed it. Ultimately, the problem for Domino’s wasn’t just a pizza problem, but a brand problem. To rebuild themselves into a “courage brand,” they unleashed a bold “Oh Yes We Did” campaign, which conveyed a very important message to customers and shareholders: we listen to you and will fix any problems. As a result, the Domino’s stock has risen over 2000% since 2010.
Clearly, it wasn’t just the brave new campaign that catapulted the company’s stock price, but it was certainly an instigator. Perhaps Aristotle was right when be contended courage to be the first virtue simply because it makes all other virtues possible.
It’s time to shift away from the “heroic” or “courageous leader” paradigm and move towards a community of like-minded people who share a common purpose and commitment to quality—a team. It’s time to forget the notion that a single charismatic individual is going to swoop in and make things better. It’s time for companies to think and do courageous acts together.
In case you’re unfamiliar with what a “courage brand” looks like, here are three of the seven traits Berman believes defines courageous companies:
Specifically, they’re not trying to be everything to everyone—they know who they are and who they are not. If you’re unsure why a decision hasn’t been made, it’s probably because values are unclear. Courageous companies make decision making easier—for everyone—because they know what they stand for and what they don’t.
They create urgency by highlighting the “why this issue/story right now” for everyone to understand. It’s only with a shared context that people can move with the speed of a small team but the decision-making power of the CEO.
Like Domino’s, courage brands tackle scathe issues head-on because they know that fear and animosity grow in the absence of clarity.
Remap your brand through courage and for courage. It’s the only way to stay relevant in today’s market.