Last week (Thursday, January 17th) Lance Armstrong was interviewed by Oprah Winfrey on her OWN Network over two nights of awkward programming.
The mission: To come clean on the doping allegations that have haunted him for years.
The result: Further damage to Armstrong’s once ironclad personal brand.
Where did he go wrong? Keep on reading, I’ll let you know.
1. His WHY is for selfish reasons.
Armstrong is coming clean now so that he can eventually resume his career in competitive sports (cycling, marathons, and triathalons). He thinks a lifetime punishment is too strong. His why should involve regret and the wanting to “make good” with the many he’s defrauded and deflated with his lies and schoolyard bully tactics. Instead, his why is not only self-centered, but it’s the primary reason that his personal brand is on life support.
2. He waited too long.
His big Texas-sized ego didn’t allow him to come clean early enough. He reacted quickly and strongly to the allegations but he was on the wrong side of the battle against investigatory science.
3. He brought others down amidst his own guilt.
He was a dictator and not a compassionate leader. His rule by force and ridicule of non-conforming team members didn’t bode well for him. When you rule by attempting to instill fear in your team, organizing and execution of a coup d’état along with waning support will eventually do you in.
4. He picked the wrong person to interview him.
Oprah is arguably the strongest interviewer our modern world has ever seen. She doesn’t back down and she gets the information she wants. Armstrong had too many skeletons in his walk-in closet outside of the doping issue. His interview with Oprah revealed the caustic nature of his leadership style. There is now too much evidence of interpersonal disharmony.
5. His eyes and body language weakened over the course of the interview.
Point #3 has a lot to do with this as Armstrong has proven to be a darn gritty guy over his career.
6. The whole ship might sink now.
I honestly don’t know how much earlier he should have stepped down from Livestrong, but the fact that large donors are asking for refunds seems to reflect that he waited too long. His brand’s extended affiliation with the non-profit has unquestionably done more damage over the last couple years than good. Any person that’s willing to risk the enormous good that Livestrong represents cannot have their personal brand’s best interest in mind.
When it comes to personal branding, a certain level of transparency and honesty is the best policy. If this was Armstrong’s attempt to humanize his brand, it did not work. He was detached and not prepared for his opportunity to reconnect with the emotions of the people who once supported him. Don’t make the mistakes he made in your own branding efforts.
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