Leading Online While Leading Inside

Leading Online While Leading Inside

Embracing outward executive communications in a hyper connected world

While traditionally leaders are extremely focused on how to drive growth, people and culture, operations and processes and mitigating risks, they should not miss on communicating and connecting with stakeholders across digital channels and forums. External communication has evolved tremendously over the past few years, especially as digital channels are a buzz with brand voices. The leadership-guiding-voice model focuses on activating and channelizing thoughts that can be quickly translated into impactful external communication, navigating public discussions with purpose.

Conventional corporate wisdom holds that to create a public image and brand, organizations need to spend heavily on advertising, PR and events. Many companies spend tremendous amount of time and money on such initiatives with the goal to build trust and have crucial customer conversations, the core aim being getting as close to the customer as possible with the right messaging. Most of these efforts being one sided, missing out on the intricate nuance of customer feedback. Almost every company today realizes the importance of establishing themselves as an opinion or industry leader. This being the core reason why so many events and conferences are popping up every day, some global while some regional in nature.

This new model of external communication, which has become quite popular since we introduced it in 2019 when our team started profiling multiple CXOs and senior leaders from multiple Fortune 500 firms. As we started working with these leaders, we captured moments of metamorphic online leadership when individuals notably exceeded expectations to create huge followership and stakeholder engagement. The core pillar of exemplary online leadership and executive brand being when leaders could follow a particular pattern or mix of topics while tapping into their inner core. Every executive had an immense amount of knowledge, experience and point of views within them, yet they were calmly unaware of these thoughts and the impact it can create on external audiences and key stakeholders. Yet the idea Is not new, across ages leaders have engaged in contemplative external communications and created exemplary individual brands integrating it with their spirit and know-how in their outer pursuits.

Our work and research over the past 4 years has shown that an alternative approach to external communication not only compliments but also replaces some of the above mentioned traditional external-focused efforts to build a thought leadership brand. It involved tapping into the CXOs and senior executives, into faculties every organization possesses but might not be effectively utilizing them for the purpose of brand building and market making. Rather than a competency to be acquired, executive branding and communications is something to be simply activated. Leaders need to shift emphasis from leading inside to leading outside as well as on various online channels and forums. Our firm has found that leaders can tap into their personas, experience, and know-how and into their inner core with just 15-20 mins of reflection every week. With the research and consulting work that we do for some of the biggest brands in the world, we have validated our framework which we call “leadership-guiding-voice”. At one of the largest technology companies in the world, leaders who worked with us increased online followership by more than 100% and are creating micro communities aligned to their area of work. These communities not only engage and imbibe the thoughts shared by these leaders but also validate ideas, which act as valuable feedback for these leaders to course correct their crucial strategies. How can you as a business leader activate your voice over online channels? How do you create a powerful executive brand from yourself that transcends your organizational boundaries? For the first time we have opened our research vaults at IMERGEY to introduce a playbook for Senior executives and business leaders to unlock the unlimited potential of their personal executive brands, under time pressure at a time when it matters the most. Before we dive into details and specifics, let’s consider the fundamental shift that the leadership-guiding-voice entails.

Case Studies

Legacy banks are actively adopting AI to improve customer service, risk management, and operational efficiency. Some notable examples include:

An Evolved State

It’s common for organizations today to have a uniform enablement for all their leaders while also evaluating them along a common bell curve, common knowledge being behavior and personality of someone will change with the person he/she is at the core. Someone can be an introvert in a situation while the other may be an extrovert in the same situation, but that doesn’t change the value they bring within that situation with their knowledge, experience, and leadership. The core thing being – to be in a state where a person is actively communicating his/her point of view, consistently.

When we make a commitment to ourselves to define and achieve a goal, we are emotionally triggered to perform. Conversely, if we don’t make that promise we are uncentered, short of time and underperform. This is why before any executive plans to take up external communication it’s important for them to make that commitment to themselves and define a year long goal. Only then one would be able to stay on course and ultimately reach the state when the leader is connected to his/her inner core while also connected to his/her followers and external stakeholders, who are engaging with them on every opinion. This is what we call an “Evolved State”.

Several things can prevent senior leaders and executives from achieving this state. Firstly, they are always pressed against time, either by the exciting things that are going on in their professional lives or a special situation they are prioritizing. Secondly, they simply might not see the value in something like this and the possibilities it opens – to build external trust, create followership or simply to inspire their teams within through external facing communication. Thirdly, they might not have sufficient knowledge and experience of social media and online channels and forums and may reach habitual fixed ways rather than observing the ever-changing dynamics of these channels and the people on them. And lastly, the core focus of these executives now being either growth or operational parameters, instead being people focused and the human dimension of their roles. Leadership-guiding-voice is designed to overcome these obstacles. It’s an approach to activate their voice over online channels while also connecting to your core, gathering energies from what they already possess. 


Our guiding voice model, focuses on five core pillars of executive communication:


Connecting to your core beliefs, values and motivations


Connecting with those you work with and lead


Connecting to the larger audience within your organization 


Connecting with partners, investors, and key stakeholders


Connecting with the larger industry on latest happenings 


We worked with leaders across different industries on how they can tap into these 5 core pillars to create a story telling engine and create an external connection. The ideation was swift and to the point, taking only 30 mins a week and within 8 weeks, each pillar showed up regularly in their communication. By taking these actions consistently, leaders can transcend organizational boundaries and achieve the full potential of their executive brands in less than 12 weeks and build a regular connect with the outside world.

Getting in the Mindset

Getting in the Mindset
Like any great athlete or a musician on stage, leaders can also achieve the state of flow and have an effortless connect with the outside world once they start emphasizing and prioritizing external communications and their executive brand intentionally.

Our advice to executives and external communications teams is to always begin with a specific goal and clearly honing and defining objectives, whether it is building trust, market making, community building, gaining buy-in from customers or inspiring teams and stakeholders. Not having a well defined and well thought of goal can clearly hinder getting in the evolved mindset to create external leadership. Executives should replace any in-decisive emotions or beliefs about external communication with a positive intention. We know that our intentions fuel our emotions and perceptions which in turn influences our behavior. If we believe that our communication is not going to resonate with the audiences, or they would not value your opinion and take on a subject, you would be far less likely to engage in external communication and in behaviors that are conductible for creating a powerful executive brand.

We tell executives to pickup three out of the five core pillars they can pick up immediately to start creating an external dialogue and content pieces.

They should base their choices on the pillars they have drawn most to and the role they are in Leadership-guiding-voice does not require the pillars to be in sequence, but executives should pick up pillars they feel most authentic about and start communicating about those. Once the leaders have chosen pillars, they should spend 30 mins a week reviewing them and taking time to center themselves around those topics.


Progressing From Achievement to Achievement

In our multiple years of experience working with hundreds of executives across industries and geographies, external influence of executives practicing leadership-guiding-voice models kept increasing every 12 weeks. We believe a large part of this is due to the consistency of their actions which builds the trust among external stakeholders and as leaders become more experienced in such communication, they can effectively apply them over a variety of situations. These results are consistent with research on expert performance, which demonstrates that experts excel at organizing information—referred to as “chunking” by psychologists—in their respective fields compared to novices. Seasoned leaders can identify structures that novices overlook, possess the ability to both take a broad perspective and discern intricate details within a situation, and can more seamlessly apply their chunking strategies to new contexts.


How to Attain Leadership-Guiding-Voice

Executive Branding is not a set of traits to be learned but rather it is a state that can be attained by establishing a positive intention and then activating the five core pillars we all possess.


Our guiding voice model, focuses on five core pillars of executive communication:


Connecting to your core beliefs, values, and motivations.

  • Connect to Values and Purpose: Identify your core values and purpose and connect them with the core message you want to communicate.
  • Commence on a Champions Quest: Craft a compelling vision and mission that not only inspires you but also the people around you to help you pursue it.
  • Your Outside-In view: Make yourself aware of how people perceive you externally and what is the impression they carry.
  • Care for a Cause: Think beyond your work to a larger purpose you would want to pursue and make it part of your intention.


Connecting with those you work with and lead.

  • Reflect on People and Connections: Approach people and professional relationships with heightened curiosity, so you can mention about them externally.
  • Merge Viewpoints: Find ways to capture day to day work life with an external viewpoint with a balanced and nuanced perspective that appeals to people.
  • Embrace New Age Thinking: Always give a fresh perspective and contemporary viewpoints on leadership in action.
  • Draw Emotional Energy: Do away from feeling vulnerable and being unsure, put emotions in words, meaning and interpretation.


Connecting to the larger audience within your organization.

  • Put People in the Frame: Involve more people in your communication, give them a shout, engage, and respond.
  • Acknowledge, Address and Appreciate: Recognize people from within and outside your organization, acknowledge anyone you learn from.
  • Empathize: Be non-judgmental and attune yourself with the emotions of others, only then you can resonate among them.
  • Express Thoughtfully: Have a deep sense of connection and care, only then you can communicate authentically and truthfully.


Connecting with partners, investors, and key stakeholders.

  • Pivot: Identify topics you can talk endlessly about and pivot around them to ensure there is value in every outward communication.
  • Cultivate Relationships: Have open communication on critical updates, find common ground and shared ideals.
  • Seek Advice: Spark debates and positive exchange of ideas while seeking advice and opinions on complex issues and varied experiences. Spread Joy: Maintain a cheerful disposition.


Connecting with the larger industry on latest happenings.

  • Anticipate and Calibrate: Pre-empt challenges that lie ahead for everyone in the industry and draw out a plan to evaluate and adapt to those.
  • Solve Today’s Problem: Keep a track of trends and be aware of the problems people are solving today and not yesterday or tomorrow.
  • Showcase Experience: Use setbacks and failures to showcase experience and know-how, to help others learn from it and become better.
  • Form a Distinct Identity: identify your unique combination of intrinsic qualities and unique experiences, get centered around them.

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