Wendy Clark, President of Sparkling Brands and Strategic Marketing, Coca-Cola North America, departed from her usual main stage presentations here at Cannes to deliver an inspiring masterclass on leadership to an overflow crowd of young (and young-at-heart) attendees. Her talk, called “Bravery, Belief, and Being Underestimated,” illustrated thee of her most cherished principles with creative work and leadership advice.
“You can’t say ‘bravery’ inconsequentially,” said Clark before demonstrating the principle in question with Coke Zero’s Drinkable advertising campaign. The technically complex work had many places to go awry, but Coke Zero was brand (and prepared) enough to go forward. To Clark, bravery is a crucial leadership principle that drives one to disrupt the status quo. Leaders manifest this trait by having a POV, stating that POV, putting it into action, and doing so even with the knowledge that it may be easier to do nothing.
“It is a gift to be underestimated,” Clark believes. Being underestimated lowers the threshold for success and, because being underestimated is infuriating, also lights one’s competitive fire.
Belief is one of the most powerful leadership tools. Clark distinguishes between individual and collective belief, and one depends on the other. Individual belief is manifested through quiet, humble confidence. When you have that confidence, you inspire it in others, thus creating collective belief. Collective belief is “food for the soul,” and Clark believes that nothing is more powerful. Speaking of the power of the collective, Clark closed by repeating a Coca-Cola axiom:
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