Leadership—Are You a Cleopatra?

by Jo Anne Nelson on August 17, 2011

Do you know the Pam Tillis song? Just call me Cleopatra, because I’m the Queen of Denial.

It’s about a woman who is in denial about the man in her life and the state of their relationship. But it really describes human nature. Most of us don’t like change, so we ignore or deny things we know or can anticipate.

How does this show up in business? Let’s look at the media industry. For many years (at least 100!), they were the only game in town. If you wanted to advertise and reach consumers you had to go to a newspaper, magazine or radio station. It was the best way to reach potential customers. But, there was little knowledge about the impact of that reach, and whether you were getting good results for the expense. And regardless of whether you were getting good results, the advertising rates increased every year.

Then came along disruptive technology—the internet with its low-fee options for advertising. Online advertising provided another way to reach consumers, and the cost of entry was considerably lower than that of the traditional media. Not only that, online advertising could better track the reach and impact of the advertising dollars spent. Who wouldn’t opt for a lower cost option with metrics that could show you whether you were reaching your intended audience?

Media companies were not alone here. The music industry, book publishing are other markets are currently scrambling to figure out their business models because it is clear that change is here to stay.

Most people don’t like change. Most of us don’t want to be uncomfortable, and changing can seem risky and unknown. It leaves the door open to uncertainties that we’re not so sure we can effectively manage. But here’s the thing about change—it happens.

In the world we live in, not only does change happen, but it happens rapidly, constantly, and dramatically. If we are to survive, and most importantly thrive, we must learn how to engage with change. We must build our capacity to see it as an opportunity, as a gateway to innovation. When we do, we open ourselves to a world of possibility.

When we are in denial and attempting to protect ourselves, we close possibilities and get hit anyway. This is not a time to put our heads in the sand and hope that things will return to normal. This is not the time to be a Cleopatra.

We must get comfortable with being uncomfortable—we must build our ability to step into the unknown and develop new products and services, and create greater value for our customers, over and over again. If we resist and retrench, opportunities are lost and possibilities diminish.

What will it be for you?


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