When People See Their “Best Selves” Reflected in Your Business

I recently had the opportunity to interview Gianpiero Petriglieri, Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior at INSEAD, Europe’s top business school.

Following our fruitful talk, I reflected on a thought from our interview.

We were talking about how people identify with leaders, when Professor Petriglieri said:

“Leadership happens when you attract others through your thinking, your beliefs, and your behavior. Or more precisely, when others come to see their best self reflected in your thoughts, beliefs, and actions.”

I related Gianpiero’s observation to the idea that drives emotive branding. We talk about transforming the way a business reaches out to people by making the business’s thinking, beliefs and behavior more meaningful to people. Our reasoning is that people can better “identify” with – or a Professor Petriglieri put it, “see their best self reflected in” – the business’s thoughts, believes and actions.

The idea of “best self” points to what I call the quest for meaning. I believe we have both an innate selfishness as well as a natural sense of empathy and compassion. We constantly go between “me” and “we” and seek the best ways to satisfy both.

As I’ve written about in The Age of Meaning, for years marketing exploited the “we” factor. However, the heady days of “the age of opulence” were disrupted by a massive economic reversal, coupled with on-going wars and crippling political logjams. At the same time, the Internet opened the flood gates of information and misinformation. It also lifted the curtain to reveal the ways business was either working for – or against – the common good.

Shell-shocked and disillusioned, many people no longer identified as “consumers”. They instead started looking for ways to create meaning in their lives – to live their “best self” through their beliefs and behavior. They started applying new criteria to the where they wanted to work, what they wanted to buy, and from whom they bought.

And while this awareness may not be top of mind for all people, their needs are awakened when presented by people, ideas or, indeed, business offerings that show them how to forge a better balance between self-interest and the good of their community, society in general, or the planet they occupy.

As such, meaningful businesses not only reflect the desire for greater meaning, they foster the demand by giving people ways to experience their “best selves”.

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