Pride and Prejudice. Sadly, this was still an appropriate headline for The Economist’s annual global LGBT summit that took place in New York, Hong Kong and London at the end of May. Launched in 2016, the event attended by titans of industry, academics, lawyers, policymakers, LGBT influencers and social-responsibility officers challenges and advances the global conversation around lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender diversity and inclusion. As an openly gay executive at one of the world’s leading public relations firms, I still marvel at the battles left to fight. As one of the stakeholders who convened yet again to travel down the long path to advocacy by making the business case for inclusion, I couldn’t help but think about how things might improve exponentially if people paid more attention to infusing their personal brand with Purpose – both outside and inside the workplace.
Imagine topping off your resume, work email signature or LinkedIn profile with monikers that aptly capture the causes you endorse so you present the most authentic version of yourself in the workforce? Talent, after all, is the most important commodity in businesses. If more leaders started to publicly align with causes and highlight discrimination they personally battle, it might just fuel-inject D&I initiatives within organizations as well.
Consumers are rebelling against brands that don’t have a defined purpose that aligns with their beliefs. In a 2018 study by Cone/Porter Novelli, 78 percent of Americans said they believe companies must do more than just make money. They must positively impact society as well. Nearly 80 percent said they feel a stronger emotional connection to purpose-driven companies while 73 percent said they are willing to defend a company with values they embrace against criticism. And, 78 percent said they would tell others to buy products from purpose-driven companies.
From an employee perspective, empowering those coming up the ranks is as important as educating those already in C-suite positions. With Millennials rising through the ranks, purposeful people will soon have more leadership roles and power to impact change. 64 percent of Millennials won’t take a job if a company doesn’t have strong corporate values while 88 percent say their job is more fulfilling when they are provided opportunities to make a positive impact on social and environmental issue. This is certainly not a group ready to check their values at the office door.
And the pressure isn’t just coming from consumers or employees. Larry Fink, CEO of global investment management firm BlackRock, told business leaders across the globe in January that they best start focusing as much on their impact on society as they do on their bottom lines or risk losing his company’s support. “Without a sense of purpose, no company, either public or private, can achieve its full potential,” he wrote in his letter to CEOs.
It clearly pays to be good.
As we come to the end of LGBT Pride Month, I’m calling for a collective movement among business leaders and those climbing corporate ladders to make their personal branding much more purposeful.
As the #MeToo movement gains steam and advocates for gender equality publicly fight discrimination, LGBT advocates need to follow suit to spark debate that leads to meaningful change. In speaking with LGBT leaders at The Economist Pride and Prejudice summit, I was struck by how difficult it remains for executives to navigate social-justice minefields. Many still grapple with how to speak about LGBT rights at work, where and when to take stands, march, rally or espouse their views. People, like companies, must differentiate their individual brands around Purpose. The collective power that will come from purposeful, personal brands will be a force that will be hard to ignore.
A lot has been written about personal branding and how a carefully choreographed individual narrative can boost your professional currency. Strong personal branding helps individuals stand out and highlight strengths and skills. Purposeful, personal branding will let individuals clearly articulate their platforms and move the social-justice meters. As global citizens are urging companies to be more human, isn’t it also time for humans to be, well, more human?
I’m fortunate to work for a company that embraces its purposeful employees. I show up for work the same way I show up for pride marches. My authentic self does not change based on the company I’m keeping. It’s imperative that companies integrate the personal Purpose of their workers into their corporate DNA to help them deliver to stakeholders. Engaged leaders and employees boost talent loyalty and satisfaction, reduce turnover and drive results.
It’s time to not only take our Purpose message to the streets, but also to the place of work.