The future of self-branding in my opinion really is an idea borrowed from history.  We are slowly learning not to reinvent the wheel in this day and age. It’s the modern day equivalent of sitting around the fire and listening to the older generation teach life lessons through story telling. And it is one of these encounters with the past that I found a lesson on self-branding.

I decided to play the tourist in DC and visit some of the monuments. It was while visiting the World War II memorial monument that I came across this quote by George Marshall.

“We are determined that before the sun sets on this terrible struggle, our flag will be recognized throughout the world as a symbol of freedom on the one hand and of overwhelming force on the other. “  – George Marshall, 1942

I am not an historian, so forgive me if I do not revert to an historic encounter of World War II and the aftermath. I will admit that in writing this piece, I did some research on WWII. I discovered that before the war the United States was considered a great power among others and at the time it was both premature and erroneous to state that they were a superpower. It is at this point in my article that historians and academics will feel the need delve into research data and give you exact dates and accounts of the US transition into a super power.  I will save you the trouble.

What stood out to me when I read this quote was the following:

Establish a plan

The United States had a plan. They had goals, a mission and a vision statement that is so clearly highlighted in this one quote. They knew who they wanted to be (a symbol of freedom), they knew where they were going (an overwhelming force). And this is very simply how they got here. And this is how you, my fellow African leader, to be can learn from history today.

Focus on others then self

What I want us to focus on is the nature and the priorities of the goals outlined in this quote. The first commitment is to the service of another; The idea of creating a symbol of freedom for all is arguably one of the reasons America is considered the land of the free.

When creating your mission and vision statement, I urge you to think of the value you can add to your communities before focusing on what is in it for you. Only then can you focus on growing your name as a force to be reckoned with. It is the people whose lives you touch, whose trust you earn and whose support you will gather to help grow your business, help establish your movement or support your policies.

Work with the storm

I am drawn to the opening statement.  “We are determined that before the sun sets on this terrible struggle…” Notice how this statement was born not before a time of terrible struggle nor after. It was during the uncomfortable period that hope emerged. We cannot wait for our circumstances to get better, for our future to look bright before we forge or lay out our strategic plans. We are a generation of leaders who are called to create and seize opportunities and to give voice to a continent that has desperately needed to re-brand.

This new generation of young African leaders will drive change. We are creating a new narrative, an African narrative. Before we do that together, we need individual brands. So as you create and grow your brands, do not forget to look back into history.