Three things business leaders can learn from Bernie Sanders

The Democratic presidential candidate is consistent in his message, has persisted against long odds and understands the value of branding

David FullerI recently wrote an article about three things you could learn from Donald Trump and just like the U.S. president, the response was polarizing.

Those three things were:

  • Take more holidays.
  • Be quicker to fire.
  • Play to win.

On one hand, I had people thanking me for the insight.

On the other hand, people dropped off my mailing list. One fellow went so far as to suggest that while he believed that no education was ever wasted, in my case he would make an exception!

All laughter aside, it got me thinking about what business leaders might learn from Bernie Sanders.

Sanders, at the age of 77, is one of the front-runners for the U.S. Democratic Party presidential nomination. The next election takes place in the fall of 2020.

Sanders captured the world’s attention when he narrowly lost the party’s nomination for the 2016 election to Hillary Clinton.

Like his politics or not, there are a few things that every business leader could learn from Sanders. Here are my top three observations on what he does well:

Never give up.

Sanders didn’t become the sensation he is now overnight. In fact, he’s a loser in the sense that he lost more elections than he won during the first couple of decades of his career as a politician. He lost five elections for governor and senator before he won his first election, as a mayor, in 1980. He ran again for the U.S. Senate in 1988 and lost, before winning in 1990.

What can we learn from this?

In business, we might have to try several times before we become successful as an entrepreneur. Failure is a bitter pill to swallow. However, if we continue to learn from our losses, we usually can succeed – as Sanders has demonstrated.

We need to believe that we have something valuable to offer and to persevere in our endeavours until we achieve our dreams. Remember, Thomas Edison failed in 10,000 experiments before he succeeded in building the lightbulb. For all we know, Sanders might have had to tweak his message 10,000 times before he got it right.

Branding works.

Sanders has done a phenomenal job of branding himself in order to create something his followers want to be part of. He has followed the keys to branding success by differentiating himself from his competition, knowing his audience and understanding the messages that he needs to deliver that will evoke loyalty.

How effective is your business in building a brand that your followers love?

Too often, organizations are unclear about what they stand for, what they’re trying to achieve and the key messages that will get their ideal patrons to flock to them. Sanders has clarity about what his message is and his campaign repeats those mantras to communicate his brand to his supporters.

Be consistent.

Love or hate what Sanders stands for, you have to admit that his social and economic stands have been consistent over the 50 years of his political career. While many politicians tend to change their messages to tell the electorate what they want to hear, Sanders has remained consistent for decades.

Consistency in business is key to our success. We need to be able to provide reliable prducts, service and communication to give our stakeholders a foundation that they can rely on.

Barring a stumble by establishment frontrunner Joe Biden, the chances of Sanders winning the Democratic presidential nomination will be similar to last time.

As leaders of our organizations, we need to not only be aware of other leadership styles, but conscious of the overarching trends in technology, society, economics and politics that could influence our businesses.

To survive in the future, we need to be ready to learn from the past and from those around us who are more creatively successful than we are at running organizations.

Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award winning business coach and a partner in the firm Pivotleader Inc. Comments on business at this time? Email dave@pivotleader.com

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