Leaders as Brand Ambassadors
In this article, we talk about the concept of a “leadership brand” and the values that a good leader can add to both their personal brand as well as their business.
A “leadership brand” is a business lauded with the reputation of developing exceptional talent with a distinct set of skills that are geared to fulfil customers’ and investors’ expectations. Simply put, a leadership brand is one which is home to the leaders of today, and is known to cultivate the leaders of tomorrow. A company with a leadership brand inspires faith that employees and managers will consistently make good on the firm’s promises, over a long period of time.
To stand out as a ‘leadership brand’, your business needs to position itself correctly. This can be done by analysing yourself using two metrics; your personal brand and your business’ brand. Building your personal brand can help you become more visible in the leadership sphere. With your unique identity, you can stand out amongst other powerful leaders, leveraging a large network and being an influencer in topics about leadership. Successful personal branding is rooted in authenticity; take the time to unearth your true traits instead of imitating what you see in others. That will lay the foundation of your strong personal brand.
Furthermore, a strong leadership brand will help you excel in collaborative work and naturally build networks with influential people. It reveals the unique process and style with which you get things done, for which you will be known. Most importantly, you have the power to define your own authentic leadership brand, regardless of your current organisational role. This strong personal brand will stay with you throughout your professional career.
Now, what does a good leader add to their business?
Branding can be one of the biggest differentiators for an organisation, whether positive or negative. Some of the most successful multinational brands like Google and Apple invest a great deal in defining and living out their brand. Staying true to your brand will ensure that customers know what to expect when they transact with you, which will also allow you to build a concrete brand reputation.
Brand equity often drives revenue, customer retention and price. This is further incentive to encourage brand leaders and employees in the company to live the brand. As a leader, you are the key brand steward; it is critical for you to have a clear picture of what your brand is, how it behaves and to humbly respect it enough to follow through on brand values. Indeed, your brand runs your company too.
In recent years, there is a trend of companies spending unnecessarily on corporate universities which train employees to develop brand values; yet most have failed to develop true leadership bench strength. This is because the approach to leadership training in such “universities” or training programmes is in contradiction with what the firm stands for in the eyes of customers and investors. Instead, your business should promote strong leadership values that represent your brand the way you want consumers to perceive the brand. In general, leadership practices are seldom integrated with the firm’s brand, let alone with the daily operations of the organisation. At the root of this problem is a persistent focus on developing the individual leader. This needs to change, and your brand leader should work to revamp the entire understanding of “leadership” itself and embody the brand values wholly.
As a leader, you define your company’s core values, mission and long-term vision. Use these as the basis for all decisions. This sense of purpose is grounded in action by leaders who use a set of behavioural guidelines and agreements that support making this possible. That is, a leader encourages behaviours which align well with their brand’s core values and discourage the ones that contradict them. One key area of focus for leaders promoting experimentation is in, forming these values, so as to be flexible while remaining non-ambiguous, empathetic while remaining ‘no-nonsense’.
It is important to understand that leaders are brand ambassadors for your business. As a leader, if you are trying to amplify the value of your company by leveraging the brand, it is critical that you live it and lead others to do the same. In fact, irrespective of an employee’s role within the company, they represent the brand. Are your leadership behaviours building on the feeling you want your customers to have when they interact with your organisation? Think about it, and leverage your role to the maximum!