leadership dot #2227: imposter

Disney is known as one of the leaders in brand management and their flagship store in Times Square puts their magic on full display. The escalator alone is masterful – full of color, 3-D accessories, music and, of course, images of their iconic characters.

If you know anything about Disney’s characters you know that they are strictly forbidden from being out of character. Once the costume is on, they become the character they are representing.

So, it must gall Disney that across the street from their store are numerous fake characters, trying to make a buck or two by posing with the tourists in pictures. In between camera moments, these counterfeits push their masks/heads up and allow their human face to be clearly visible – presumably to avoid unpaid photo ops – but they look like Minnie Mouse as a bank robber.

Most people would not think twice about the incongruence between the real Disney and these fakes, but it is a clear brand violation. It hurt me to see them!

Even if you are as powerful as Disney, there is only so much you can control when an imposter rears its ugly head. Be vigilant with the all details you can influence.

leadership dot #2226: casting

I was fortunate enough to see three musicals on Broadway while I was in New York – a treat like no other. I have seen many performances over the years and was struck this time as to how the theater has become much more multicultural and relaxed in its interpretation of who can perform what role.

Part of what gave Hamilton its buzz was the ethnicity of the main characters: Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr played by African Americans, Hamilton himself as a Hispanic and many others in the cast from various nationalities. In Once on this Island, actors played multiple roles crossing ethnicities and social classes. Come from Away also had a diverse cast that interchanged parts throughout the production.

In Shakespeare’s day, female roles were played by young boys or men. Not without controversy, but now Scarlett Johansson is cast to portray a transgender man.

Perhaps we will come full circle by allowing the talent of the actors to transport us to a different world, irrespective of the stereotypes that impede us in the literal world. We would be wise to embrace more of this off the stage.

leadership dot #2225: pillar

When a building is first built, there is often a cornerstone placed to commemorate the date of the structure’s origin. How do you acknowledge the ending of a building’s existence?

This was a challenge faced by the recovery and clean-up team after the World Trade Center attacks. After months of excavating and debris removal, the project was coming to an end and the workers needed some way to mark the conclusion of an emotional task. They chose to pay tribute to first responders and others on a cement pillar. The column now resides in the 9-11 Museum as a permanent display.

Recognition can take many forms and certainly does not have to occur on a formal plaque or engraved wall. When you need to acknowledge the efforts of others, remember the adage from Marshall McLuhan: “The medium is the message,” and ensure that there is congruency between the what you want to say and how you say it. For 9-11, there could be nothing more fitting than spray paint on a cement pillar.

leadership dot #2224: staircase

If you were an adult on September 11, 2001, you likely can tell exactly where you were when you heard about the terrorist attacks. Much attention has (rightfully) been given to the victims and first responders but until I went to the Museum I had not given much thought to the survivors. Over 15,000 people recall that where they were on that fateful morning was inside one of the towers.

 As part of the Museum, there is an entire stairwell that was saved for display. Entitled the “survivor staircase” this particular set of stairs remained accessible and was the path that hundreds took to safely exit the building. For many, those steps are the reason they are alive.

The Museum Committee needed to acknowledge the wishes of victim families but also of those who lived through the disaster. The staircase is there in response to that constituent group.

While the steps may be a painful reminder for some that their loved one did not survive, they also represent redemption for those who did escape. Everyone experiences life from a different perspective. Take care to honor the multiplicity of emotions and views when telling your story.

leadership dot #2223: window

Of the 40,000 windows in the World Trade Center, one survived the 9-11 terrorist attack. A window from the 82nd floor of the South Tower is on display in the Memorial, seemingly unscathed from the mayhem around it.

One of the docents at the Museum sees this window as a lesson of hope: No matter how fragile you think you are, you can deal with a big impact and still come out intact.

Keep this window in mind when your environment becomes volatile and remember that there is the possibility for you to come through it.

leadership dot #2222: no day

Art has always been a vehicle for healing, and it is no exception at the 9-11 Memorial and Museum. One of the most prominent examples is a wall-to-wall installation that consists of 2,983 watercolors, each one representing one of those who died in the World Trade Center attacks in 1993 and 2001. Artist Spencer Finch created each one of the pieces to be a unique shade of blue to “remember the color of the sky” on the fateful September morning.

As part of the piece, steel from the Trade Center was forged into letters to form this powerful quote from Virgil: “No day shall erase you from the memory of time.”

Let that sink in for a minute.

No matter how bad things are, no matter how your end comes, no matter how insignificant you may feel at times, you are leaving an indelible mark on this world and no day shall erase you. Capitalize on the opportunity you have to make an impact.

leadership dot #2221: motion

Despite my ranting yesterday that Times Square is not an accurate representation of America, what it does convey is a glimpse of the cutting-edge advertising, and that future is video. Gone are most of the static billboards that used to line the Great White Way – everything today is in motion.

Video screens are multi-story and line the side of every flat space in the district. Videos are shown at angles, from great heights and on screens that make ordinary Jumbotrons look like phones. The Downton Abbey exhibit has a video room that simulates the scenes as if you were sitting in the Mansion. I can’t imagine the electricity bill for that acre of land.

If you are communicating all of your messages through print or even passive social media posts, you are living in yesterday. The sign of the Times is square – and rectangle – screens in motion.