One of the most important lessons in leadership is that you must take ownership of your failures. When leaders take responsibility of their missteps, they often even gain more respect and loyalty from their followers.
That's a lesson that Nick Caporella, CEO of National Beverage Corporation, the maker of the popular seltzer water LaCroix, has yet to understand. According to a statement (strangely titled "'We Just Love Our LaCroix' Consumers Chant") released on Thursday, National Beverage Corp. profits dropped by more than 39 percent in the last quarter.
Caporella's response to LaCroix's poor performance was that it wasn't due to "mismanagement" or "woeful acts of God." Nope. LaCroix's decline in sales and profits was due to "injustice," he said.
"Managing a brand is not so different from caring for someone who becomes handicapped," Caporella continued. "Brands do not see or hear, so they are at the mercy of their owners or care providers who must preserve the dignity and special character that the brand exemplifies."
He might just win the award for worst CEO statement of 2019.
Creating a brand identity is fairly easy to do. You conjure up a logo, brainstorm a catchy tag line and develop promotional materials that reinforce a unique selling proposition and so on. The question is, can it be done well?
A strong brand identity gains traction and widespread recognition in the marketplace. That's a lot harder to do, which is why companies spend millions of dollars on all the things that reinforce a brand: Quality, recognition outstanding customer experience.
A brand's image is also strongly influenced by what its leader says in public. But Caporella's response isn't the kind of reaction that great leaders tend to make. Even worse, he's responded in similar ways before.
Last October, a lawsuit accused LaCroix, a popular sparkling water company, of mislabeling its products as "all-natural." The suit claimed that LaCroix's seltzer included non-natural and synthetic compounds. In an effort to "preserve the dignity and character" of LaCroix, National Beverage announced in January that an independent lab determined LaCroix did not contain traces of artificial or synthetic additives.
That all sounds great — except Caporella also claimed "professional liars" were using social media to attack the brand's integrity. First "professional liars." Then "injustice."
Evidently, LaCroix's problems are beyond its control.
Ask some people why their business is successful, and their answers start with "I" or "we."
Ask others why their business is struggling, and their answers start with other people — unfair competition, potential investors who lack vision, excessively restrictive regulations. Their problems are always the fault of something or someone else.
And that, of course, creates a fundamental problem: When you distance yourself from failures, you don't learn anything new.
The point is that failure is not a bad thing. Great companies and great leaders embrace their failures. They own them, learn from them and take full responsibility. But they definitely don't blame "injustice."
Jeff Haden is a speaker and author of the best-selling book, "The Motivation Myth: How High Achievers Really Set Themselves Up to Win." Follow him on Twitter @Jeff_Haden and LinkedIn @hadenjeff.
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