The Art of “Otherness”: How Authentic Leadership Wins the Customer & Employee Vote

Alas, another polarizing election cycle is underway in the US, and the heat of political rhetoric will again serve as a learning lab for WHAT NOT TO DO when leading a human-centric organization.

While political candidates will try to convince us that they are running for office to improve our lives, I’d like to contrast much of what we see on the campaign trail with what servant leaders actually do.

As we navigate this season of political vitriol, let’s focus on a few things we can do to steward our organizations toward “otherness” (a word I use idiosyncratically to connote the opposite of selfishness).

  1. Create Value for Others: Effective business owners, managers, and entrepreneurs understand that their businesses exist to deliver value to others. Providing that value respectively causes team members and customers to reciprocate by offering discretionary effort and repeat business.

  2. Don’t Speak Negatively About Your Competition: Among my mother’s many pearls of wisdom was the line, “If you can’t say something nice – don’t say anything at all.” From the customer’s perspective, putting your competitors down doesn’t elevate your business. Our time is better served working on our products, processes, and technologies.

  3. Be Authentic: Authenticity breeds trust, the bedrock of all human relationships. By acting according to your mission and values and demonstrating transparent and open communication – you win the hearts and minds of those you serve.

  4. Practice Humility: While it’s important to help clients and team members understand your unique value proposition, it’s also essential to avoid shouting your praises. Long ago, I learned it is better to be interested than to try to be interesting.

I hope you will look for contrasts between politicians (across parties) and true servant leaders in the weeks and months ahead. Moreover, let’s resist the trap of ‘look-at-me’ service and build lasting relationships anchored to “otherness.”

Humble, authentic, value-focused leadership wins the votes of team members and customers. Those votes come in the form of trust and loyalty!

To learn more about winning the vote of your team members and customers and ensuring their trust and loyalty, please contact me at

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Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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