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Building Your Leadership Identity: Patagonia and the Heroic Leader

Bold Narratives
Bold Narratives
April 17, 2023
5 min read

One of the primary goals of any organization, for-profit or non-profit, corporation or government agency, is the challenge of building and maintaining trust with your stakeholders – your customers, partners, constituents, or investors. To establish a strong reputation and be viewed as a leader, organizations must have a clear understanding of their leadership identity.

Leadership identity refers to the distinct set of characteristics, values, and behaviors that define an organization's approach to organizational leadership. It is the collective identity of a company's leadership team that shapes the organization's culture, vision, and reputation. Your organization’s leadership identity can directly influence performance, including your ability to attract and retain employees, achieve strategic objectives, and build strong relationships with stakeholders.

A strong leadership identity is built on a shared vision, values, and mission that are consistently communicated. Owning and investing in your leadership identity can lead to several benefits, including the ability to efficiently communicate your position, influence standards and trends, accelerate growth, and motivate your employees.

Bold Narratives has developed The Leadership Identity Framework, a new blueprint that can help organizations establish a stronger presence in the market by aligning their leadership identity with their goals and culture. The framework identifies eight distinct leadership identities that govern an organization's potential influence and role in the world.

To determine your leadership identity, consider the following questions:

  • What are your company's core values?
  • What is your company's vision for the future?
  • What are the key characteristics of your company culture?
  • What type of impact do you want to have on the world?
  • What are your personal strengths and weaknesses as a leader?

Once you have a clear understanding of your company's vision, culture, and values, you can begin to identify which leadership identity archetype is best aligned with your goals.

The Hero

One of the eight leadership identity archetypes is The Hero. Heroic companies are those that have overcome significant challenges, demonstrated courage, and achieved outstanding achievements that inspire admiration and respect. Heroism in business is not just about financial success or market dominance; it's about how a company operates and its impact on society.

Heroic companies are those that embody the values of courage, perseverance, and excellence. They demonstrate these qualities in the face of adversity, using their ingenuity and creativity to overcome obstacles and achieve great things. Heroic companies can be found in a variety of industries, from technology and finance to healthcare and energy.

Heroic companies are defined by several qualities that set them apart from other leadership archetypes. These include:

  • Purpose: Heroic companies have a clear vision of their goals and objectives, which guides their actions and decisions.
  • Perseverance: Heroic companies demonstrate a willingness to persevere in the face of adversity, refusing to give up even when the going gets tough.
  • Innovation: Heroic companies are innovative, using their creativity and ingenuity to solve problems and overcome obstacles.
  • Impact: Heroic companies have a positive impact on society, making a difference in the lives of their customers, employees, and communities.
  • Ethics: Heroic companies operate with integrity, upholding ethical standards and doing what is right even when it is difficult.

Patagonia: The Environmental Hero

Patagonia is a that has become synonymous with its sustainable and ethical approach to outdoor apparel and equipment. The company has been a leader in this space for over four decades and has set the standard for other companies to follow in terms of environmental stewardship and social responsibility.

Yvon Chouinard is the founder of Patagonia, an outdoor clothing and gear company known for its commitment to sustainability and environmental activism. Chouinard is also a renowned rock climber and environmentalist, and has been recognized for his philanthropic efforts to protect wild places around the world. PHOTO SOURCE: IMDB

Patagonia was founded in 1973 by Yvon Chouinard, a rock climber, and environmentalist, who began making his own climbing gear and clothing out of necessity. In 1972, Chouinard introduced a new product, the "clean climbing" piton, which reduced damage to rock faces. This product was a turning point for the company and marked the beginning of its commitment to environmentalism.

Over the years, Patagonia has continued to prioritize sustainability and environmental responsibility, pioneering many initiatives in the outdoor apparel industry. In 1996, the company launched Footprint Chronicles, a platform for transparency and accountability in its supply chain. In 2007, Patagonia became the first company to switch to 100% organic cotton for all of its products. In 2011, it launched its Common Threads Initiative, promoting the use and repair of its products to reduce waste.

Patagonia's mission statement is “We're in business to save our home planet.” This statement reflects the company's commitment to environmental stewardship and its belief that businesses have a responsibility to protect the planet. Patagonia's former CEO, Rose Marcario has stated, “It's not about making clothes, it's about saving the planet.”

Patagonia represents what we call a “heroic leader,” a company that is driven by a purpose beyond profit and that is willing to take risks to achieve that purpose. Patagonia's commitment to sustainability and social responsibility has often put it at odds with traditional business practices. According to Yvon Chouinard, “Every time we've done something that doesn't make sense from a business standpoint but makes sense from an environmental or social standpoint, it has paid off.”

Patagonia's commitment to its mission and vision has not only set it apart from other companies in the outdoor apparel industry but has also inspired others to follow suit. According to Marcario, “We have been successful because we have stood for something beyond just making and selling things. We've stood for something that people really care about.”

Patagonia's current CEO, Ryan Gellert, is committed to the company's vision and mission. “We believe that business can and should be a force for good. At Patagonia, we're committed to using our platform to drive positive change.”

Patagonia has set the standard for environmental stewardship and social responsibility in the outdoor apparel industry. Its mission to "save our home planet" and its vision to be a "force for good" reflect its commitment to making a positive impact beyond just its products. As a "heroic leader," Patagonia has taken risks and stood for something beyond just making a profit, inspiring others to do the same. And that is the definitive difference.

Not all companies and organizations can or should pursue a strategy aligned with the “heroic leader.” The Hero is only one of eight distinct leadership identity archetypes. Bold Narratives can help your company build a positioning and messaging strategy focused on the leadership identity that best aligns with your culture and opportunity for growth. Understanding the choice is the first step.

Book your organization’s FREE Leadership Identity Workshop with Bold Narratives to learn more about the eight leadership identity archetypes and how you can create a narrative of distinction for growth.