Hippo Thinks | Four Great Pieces of Thought Leadership from November
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Four Great Pieces of Thought Leadership from November

By Colleen Abel

Didn’t get a chance to read all of the smart articles coming from company leaders this month? Fear not: Hippo’s got a round-up of what shouldn’t be missed.

Like everything else in the media this November, thought leadership was dominated by the biggest news story of the year: the election of Donald Trump. Some of the most interesting communications out of the c-suite came in the wake of November 8. On the one hand, this may not be so surprising, given that the election stirred up such deep emotions in so many—but it’s always a risk for a company executive to make their political values known to customers. If they do, they run the risks of actions like boycotts from those who do not support their beliefs. But some CEOs took the risk in the aftermath of Trump’s win.

Penzey’s Spices CEO Sends Message on Racism in the Wake of Election
The CEO of Penzey’s Spices has never been shy about his liberal political beliefs, so it perhaps was less than surprising when, just after the election, Bill Penzey wrote in his weekly email to customers that “the open embrace of racism by the Republican Party in this election is now unleashing a wave of ugliness unseen in this country for decades.” After receiving responses from customers who felt that Penzey was labelling all Republicans as racist, Penzey clarified his remarks in a Facebook note titled “Cooking Trumps Racism.”

In it, Penzey makes the argument that cooking is one of the things that sets humans apart from animals, and is thus representative of humanity itself. Penzey worries that this election could undo decades of goodness that humanity has worked to put into the world, and pointedly writes: “Whether any of us like it or not, for the next four years the 80% of this country who did not just vote for an openly racist candidate are going to treat you like you are the kind of person who would vote for an openly racist candidate.”

He suggests that Trump supporters use the Thanksgiving holiday to make amends by considering a charitable donation or volunteering, while at the same time asserting Penzey’s commitment to charity, and the value it places on diversity and America’s history as a welcoming place for immigrants, things that are, of course, business values, as well as personal ones.

20-First CEO Avivah Wittenberg-Cox Writes Letter to Son
This letter, penned by the CEO of a gender diversity consultancy, gives readers an insight into the election’s aftermath from the point of view of a CEO whose entire business is devoted to helping companies achieve gender equity. Even more than the Penzey letter, Wittenberg-Cox’s heartfelt note shows the often-inextricable nature of a CEO’s personal and business points of view. Wittenberg-Cox sees the election results as a failure on the part of the American people to put a woman in charge of government. She writes, “[The election’s] lessons lie at the heart of what I have devoted my adult life to: the need for better understanding, respect and cooperation between men and women and a better balance of power between the sexes at every level: country, company and couple.”

Wittenberg-Cox suggests that diversity is a constant effort—America, she believes, has fallen prey to what is known as moral license, “a psychological finding that humans who do a bit of good can then do incredibly awful things. Because America has proven it is ethically progressive enough to elect a black man to office, it no longer has to prove its openness and tolerance. Been there, done that. It can now revert to overt sexism and racism with impunity.”

So Wittenberg-Cox directs her letter to her grown son, rather than the daughter that called her in tears after the election, because, she says, white men need to use this election as a teaching moment for others in their ingroup. Ambitious women may threaten men, she notes, but men may be able to work from the inside to change each other. She ends with this call to action: “Progressive white men have an urgent task. They need to come out of the closet, stand up for their values, and educate their bosses, colleagues, sons and senators.”

Consultant Shows How to Engage With Local Businesses
Not all thought leadership this month was overtly political, of course. But even if not in direct reaction to the election, the notion of social responsibility and business was in the air nonetheless. The publication Conscious Company devotes itself to covering socially responsible businesses, and this article from Flip Brown, founder and owner of Business Culture Consultants (a consultancy that helps businesses achieve fiscal sustainability while reducing their environmental impact), highlights ways that readers can engage with local businesses. Putting money into the local economy is beneficial in a number of ways, from job creation to lower taxes. But rather than being just another predictable listicle, much of Brown’s advice is truly helpful, from urging consumers to connect with BALLE (Businesses Aligned for Local Living Economies) to lobbying to bring conventions and gatherings to their towns to boost the economy. As Brown puts it: “Local is where you’re at, so why not align your energy and resources accordingly, as much as possible?”

Hippo’s Own Anna Redmond Explains Why Thought Leadership Isn’t Bragging
Hippo co-founder Anna Redmond’s recent piece in Entrepreneur can best be described as thought leadership about thought leadership. In it, Redmond describes that one of the biggest mistakes that potential thought leaders make: bragging about their company in their articles. Such boastfulness is counter-productive for a number of reasons, from making the article harder to publish to putting off potential readers or clients. Instead, Redmond suggests that thought leaders should “show, not tell” by writing articles that showcase their expertise, often without mentioning their company at all.

Of course, if your company founder writes a great thought leadership piece, then it’s totally ok to brag about it on your blog all you want! Or at least, that’s what we believe.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash; graphic by Hippo staff.

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