Category : 2019
The golf brand – Titleist – is derived from the word “titlist”, which means “title holder”.
Romeo was a Montague. The bitter feud between his family and the Capulets made his love for Juliet untenable. His family title made Romeo the enemy, but who he was did not, compelling Juliet to offer the immortal words, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
While your career is four centuries removed from Shakespeare, Juliet’s words capture an important principle of executive brand management. Communicating what you do is far more important than communicating what someone calls what you do. From the mail room to the board room, defining yourself by a role or title puts you in the box of whatever another person thinks that title means.
By function, job titles have a limited scope. They define your responsibilities (sales, finance, human resources). Titles capture the scope of your responsibilities (global, regional, national). A title also quickly places you in a hierarchy of authority (C-level, VP, director).
Unfortunately, even at senior levels, titles have become the playground for well-intended efforts to make someone feel better about a job. Enter the Brand Ambassador, the Innovation Catalyst, and the Chief Experience Officer (offering an alternative way to get a CEO title). When Justin Timberlake invested in Bai Brands, he was anointed their Chief Flavor Officer and the face for a $100M marketing campaign. Job platform Indeed reported a 90% increase in the use of the word Ninja in job titles last year. If you want Guru or Ninja in your title, Indeed says to look for a job in California or Texas. If you want to be a Hero, New Jersey and New York are where to focus your search.
Reputations outshine pedigrees any day. The new generation of British royals are trying to demonstrate that while they got their titles by birth or marriage, they want to build their reputations on how they use their positions to bring value to the nation and its people. An executive building a brand on a title often spends more time posturing than performing. Rank becomes more important than skills. When asked what he/she does, a job title or three-letter acronym is given in response. The executive cares more about how she is perceived than the value she brings. When a title-driven executive loses a job, he often loses his identity and sometimes, the emperor painfully discovers he was wearing no clothes.
There was a time when the path to the C-suite was well-defined – director, VP, Sr VP, and you’re in the club. In progressive companies, the path to a room with a view (if the company still has private offices) is much less distinct. Executives that market expertise and capabilities rather than titles, find greater success transitioning to a key leadership role. These leaders talk about strengths, contributions, and quantified results in transferable terms that are relevant across companies, industries, and markets.
From America to Britain to Poland to Sri Lanka, there are 59 versions of the “Got Talent” franchise running. There are zero “Got a Title” shows. Career longevity, professional growth, and brand differentiation emerge from a concerted effort to expand a portfolio of capabilities and expertise-not grasp for the next rung on the title ladder.