Bring more of yourself into your leadership.
It’s a statement I’ve made to many of my clients. But what does it actually mean? And why is it important? And… why did I name my company after a light bulb?
Let’s start with the name. 40 Watt Coaching. As I write it, it’s hard to believe that I actually chose that name. Not because it’s so far out there — more because it’s so…Me. Literally, the name is a combination of a few very personal things about me.
40 is my nickname. Think of my last name: Fortescue. Now shorten it to the first two syllables and you get something that sounds like “forty.” My college basketball teammates nicknamed me “T40” in the late 90’s, probably because it sounded kind of like E-40 (Bay Area rap legend). It stuck. My family goes by 40 now. My 3 year old daughter, Zoe? Z40. My brother, Matt? You guessed it — M40. It’s a proud family nickname now. We love it. But still, most people outside of my close circle of friends and family don’t know this nickname— which makes it personal.
So what about the “Watt” part? That comes from The 40 Watt Club, a small music venue in Athens, GA. Full admission: I’ve never been to it. But one of my favorite bands, The Whigs, played there often, and the venue name always stuck with me. Live music is a big part of my personal life — not as a musician, but as a fan. Pre-pandemic, I went to several live shows every year. I even told my wife I loved her for the first time after taking her to a live Pearl Jam show in San Francisco. So, yeah, this one’s personal too.
Finally there was the logo. As my friend and website designer, Sarah, shared logo design options with me, one in particular jumped out: the one with The Fantastic Four font. Growing up, I read tons of comic books and the Fantastic Four was my favorite of all (no comment on the movies that came out 15 years later). Mr. Fantastic, The Thing, The Invisible Woman, and the Human Torch. I’m sure some part of me wanted to be like them — a flawed but honorable group of friends that became superheroes through an outer space accident. The logo choice was clear — go with the one that spoke to the authentic me. I thought to myself “I’ve gone this far, why not use Fantastic Four font?” Again — it was personal.
How is this in any way related to leadership? Ah, yes, getting to that. A major part of leadership is about having the courage and vulnerability to show your authentic self. The more your team sees you as a three-dimensional human being, the better connected you are to them as a leader. It’s sometimes about sharing parts about you, but it’s mostly in how you show up. Are you consistently you?
The same applies to leadership communication. I coach clients to lead with their unique personality and not to stifle it. Going further into your authentic voice as a communicator is a lifelong journey. Authenticity resonates. Imitation does not. And neither does perfection.
When I considered names for my company, 40 Watt kept coming up. I dismissed it at first — it seemed too…different. Or maybe I was hesitant because it was too personal. Could I have the courage to actually put my name on this company?
Ultimately, that’s why I chose it. If I demand that my clients put their authenticity into their leadership and their communication, its time to start practicing what I preach. Now, every time a client interacts with me through 40 Watt, they see a few unique and authentic aspects of me in the logo and name.
And that feels great.