Today, we’re drawing inspiration from a powerful lyric in J. Cole’s iconic song, “No Role Modelz.” A key line in this hip-hop masterpiece offers a fresh perspective on leadership, storytelling, and marketing: “Fool me one time, shame on you. Fool me twice, can’t put the blame on you.”
J. Cole’s unique take on the traditional proverb, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me” — a phrase traced back to 1600’s literature — brings to my mind the vital importance of honesty, openness, and transparency in effective leadership and communication.
Effective leaders aren’t the ones who excel in getting team members or customers to do something by misleading them. Rather, they’re the ones who cultivate what a colleague of mine refers to as ‘H.O.T. relationships.’ These are partnerships characterized by Honesty, Openness, and Transparency.
As I reflect on this lyric, it takes me back to a pivotal moment in my leadership journey. While leading a turnaround at a community hospital, I faced a crucial decision. I could either perpetuate the hierarchical organizational structure that fostered a false aura of leadership invincibility or pivot towards a flatter, empowering organization. I believed that our collective strength as a team didn’t come from maintaining a facade of invincibility, but from embracing our shared human experience – our victories, our struggles, our unified objectives, and even our shared blunders. I knew that contrary to popular belief, vulnerability wasn’t a weakness; it’s a strength that breeds trust, respect, and collaboration.
Hence, I prioritized honesty, openness, and transparency. This resonated with the board chairperson who complimented my “No BS approach.” I filed that away in my memory as a phrase I might use at some point. 🙂
This same ethos holds true in marketing. From clickbait headlines to outlandish guarantees, and a plethora of companies failing to deliver on their promises, consumers have grown wary of online and video claims.
As the wisdom in J. Cole’s lyrics suggests, misleading someone might work once, but it’s not a sustainable strategy. Consumers can either see through the deceit immediately or harbor resentment towards the company once the truth is revealed.
That’s why, whether you’re a leader, marketer or both, authenticity is key. It requires bravery to show vulnerability and empathy to understand and appreciate others.
So as we listen to “No Role Modelz,” let’s reflect:
Are we as leaders fostering an environment of honesty and openness?
Are we comfortable showcasing our vulnerabilities and empathizing with our teams?
In our marketing and communication efforts, are we presenting the real story?
If not, it’s time to commit to becoming the role model and leader you want to be.