Brand You! Eighth Color Of The Rainbow

debolina partap11211

The writer proposes nurturing and protecting individual leadership styles so as to usher synergies in management of organizations...

- Debolina Partap

Friends, this article is an attempt to bring about a futuristic harmony into leadership styles, and recognition and protection of their uniqueness. This article may have more management concepts but what I am trying to shine the light on is intellectual property arising from that which goes unprotected - “Brand You”.

Charismatic authority involves a type of organization or type of leadership in which authority derives from the charisma of the leader. This stands in contrast to two other types of authority: legal authority and traditional authority. Each of the three types forms part of Max Weber’s tripartite classification of authority. Weber developed this definition in his essays “Politics as a Vocation” and “Discipline and Charisma”, as well as in other parts of his writings. The concept has acquired wide usage among sociologists. This has given birth to leadership branding in the sociological and political spaces. As intellectual property law experts, we definitely speak of protecting tangibles and intangibles - especially the brand or the process or the product. While doing so, we need to protect the brand of the author or the leader! I was reading an article by Naheed Mirza, specialist in leadership branding and was immensely impressed on the new concept of protecting the brand of a Leader and investing more in the human capital which brings about innovations and intellectual properties. Some of the excerpts are given below:

Lee Iacocca promulgated a LEADERSHIP BRAND which was resolute, determined, persuasive and ready to take risks which helped him turn around Chrysler, similarly Gandhi’s leadership brand was that of integrity, honesty, principles, strength of character and above all truth

What is leadership branding?

To understand what kind of collective leadership behaviors an organization needs in order to improve customer satisfaction and retention, it is important to first understand the customers’ existing perceptions and experience - good or bad - and, more crucially, to identify what the organization wants those perceptions and experience to be in the future. The gap between the two will be the basis for the kind of collective leadership behaviors necessary for sustainability and growth. For instance, this could be to work collaboratively rather than in silos to benefit the customer. This is particularly relevant for larger organizations whose customers may have several contacts across a number of departments - and is a challenge that leadership branding development frequently has to tackle.

The next stage is to put in place the steps to achieving those behaviors. Individual leadership skills and collective leadership can then work together to drive employee behavior to deliver the desired customer experience. Returning to the Apple example, the Apple brand (what this organization is known for) is innovation and modern design; its leadership brand (what its leaders are known for) is creating exciting new products and services outside the industry norms, and the leadership behaviors will be focused on making this happen.

Many organizations put innovation at the core of business. If that really is the case, examples of leadership behaviors could include ensuring that every team member has an opportunity for ‘blue sky’ thinking (either on- or off-site) and that senior managers will both lead by example and support their team members in having this opportunity. Actively encouraging collaboration and cross-fertilization of ideas across teams, departments or geographical locations could be another example. Indeed, at Apple, cross-collaboration between different groups is an expectation, rather than just a consideration.

But leadership branding is a concern not only for big, high-profile organizations like Apple but also small and medium-sized enterprises. One example is a small but fastgrowing digital media company in the West Midlands. As with most new and growing businesses, the leadership team has had little time to pause and reflect - all its time and energy has been spent on developing the business. They realized that they needed some time and space to think about how they engaged with their customers and how they wanted customers to perceive them. Leadership branding gave them the focus to do this. The company’s brand is based on “knowledge transfer made easy” so, as part of the process to develop a leadership brand, the team was particularly keen to develop leadership behaviors to support this promise.

The result was to identify a number of initial high-level statements, from which specific behaviors can follow to be embedded throughout the organization. These statements captured the essence of what the leadership team was passionate about and, based on feedback from their customers, helped the company keep its competitive edge:

  • being accessible to employees and available to customers, building personal and engaging relationships
  • continuously developing their reputation as experts in their field, qualifying what they say with supporting facts and keeping their knowledge up to date
  • developing face-to-face relationships, actively seeking feedback and never being complacent
  • demonstrating drive, desire and ambition and maintaining high exposure to new projects and customers to maintain and develop knowledge
  • including employees in the preparation phase of new business development and project implementation so that they experience a ‘parallel’ and ‘complete’ journey

How does leadership branding work?

Leadership branding tackles leadership strategy and development primarily from a collective, customerfocused perspective. It looks at leadership in terms of the organization as a whole: What are the collective behaviors that an organization’s leaders need to demonstrate in order to have a positive impact on employee behavior to, in turn, improve customers’ perceptions and experience of the organization?

As a customer-led approach to leadership development, it involves ensuring that both customers and employees are treated well at every ‘touch point’ they have with the organization. If an organization makes a brand promise to listen and be responsive to customers, for example, the leaders must make sure they reflect this in their dealings with employees too.

Creating a solid leadership branding base

Developing a successful leadership brand requires a systematic but tailored approach, which should always start with interviewing key members of the senior management team and then gathering customer feedback to create a benchmark. It is important to understand how customers see the organization now. The next step is to assess existing individual leadership skills within the organization, using a range of profiling techniques. Once both of these preliminary benchmarking stages are complete, the real skill lies in working with senior management teams to develop a leadership strategy and behavioral framework based on a set of desirable collective behaviors that the organization needs to exhibit.

What these behaviors should be will vary considerably from one organization to another, but there are a number of ‘basebuilding’ behaviors that typically characterize organizations with a successful leadership brand. These include:

  • Credibility: Credible leaders encourage open and honest discussions, maintain confidentiality and inspire confidence
  • Trust: To build trust, leaders need to demonstrate knowledge and expertise, as well as fairness and integrity. They should also recognize the importance of establishing a good rapport with their employees
  • Communication: Enhanced ccommunication skills are a must for all leaders: the ability to establish rapport, interact with and influence people at all levels, articulate information and check that the message has been understood - as well as challenge ideas appropriately
  • Consistency: Often overlooked, this is an important collective skill for all leaders. It is about the ability to adapt to new or changing situations and strive for stability. Above all, it means reacting in a predictable way to unpredictable situations so that employees know where they stand
  • Resilience: Resilient leaders show self-confidence and composure. They are quick to resolve conflict, and maintain a rational and calm approach when facing challenges. They also avoid blame and self-criticism Resilient leaders show self-confidence and composure. They are quick to resolve conflict, and maintain a rational and calm approach when facing challenges. They also avoid blame and self-criticism

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Other desirable behaviors will need to be developed in close consultation with the leaders themselves. After all, it is the leaders that will need to embrace and display them.

One caveat to bear in mind is that the leadership behavioral framework must be realistic. An effective leadership brand should not only tell a story that complements and enhances the organization’s overall brand, and reflects the expectations of the customer, it must also be ‘lived and breathed’ by every leader within the organization. This is no easy task, so any leadership branding exercise will need to focus on identifying and bringing to life the leadership behaviors that really can make it happen.

Measuring success

Once the behavioral framework has been established and embedded within the organization, it is important to put in place robust ways of measuring success. These are likely to involve analyzing employees’ behavior to see what impact the new leadership behaviors are having on them - and then carrying out follow-up research with customers to find out whether (and how) their perceptions of the organization have changed.

Where a successful leadership branding strategy has been put in place, this follow-up customer research will, over time, reveal improved customer satisfaction.

What are the benefits?

When organizations get their leadership brand right, they are in a stronger position to meet and exceed customers’ expectations. Their leadership brand is characterized by leaders who display a consistent set of behaviors driven by their desire to achieve that goal. By extending their focus beyond individual leadership to developing a true leadership brand, these organizations ensure that their employees know what to expect and feel engaged. They also give their customers confidence that leaders will respond to their needs in a consistent and appropriate way.

All of this leads to higher customer satisfaction and retention, which in turn means greater organizational sustainability. Ultimately, leadership branding offers savvy organizations, whose ambitions exceed ‘weathering the storm’ of the current economic environment, a way of aligning their leadership development and marketing efforts to lay the foundation stones for future growth.

Every leader has a personal leadership brand which might be carefully cultivated or intuitively perceived by leaders themselves and their followers. A personal leadership brand is an exclusive and a specific approach of a leader to address challenges and manage his/her transactions with their subordinates or followers. The best part of having a leadership brand is that it allows the flexibility to the leaders to define their own leadership objectives and then position themselves appropriately as per the need and situation. For example, Lee Iacocca promulgated a leadership brand which was resolute, determined, persuasive and ready to take risks which helped him turn around Chrysler, similarly Gandhi’s leadership brand was that of integrity, honesty, principles, strength of character and above all truth.

It is essential for a leader to practise his/her leadership brand in thoughts and actions. How can a leader build up a leadership brand if they do not have one already. A leadership brand helps distinguish leaders and also outlines their approach, values, beliefs etc. It is also important for leaders to check their leadership brand with seniors, subordinates and other stakeholders to understand their expectations from the role; and if any disconnect is pointed out, it needs to be incorporated.

Apart from the above aspects, leaders need to role model themselves and redefine their perceptions and ambitions to encompass the entire institution, which they represent. A leader needs to put the interests of the organization and stakeholders before his/her personal ambition and goals, and strive to create success which is sustainable and does not need their constant presence.

The leaders need to understand that a personal leadership brand cannot be created overnight but credibility is earned the hard way, through years of perseverance. Once a leadership brand is created, its acceptance and stability is established only after results are achieved. So, if a leader identifies certain goals but fails to achieve them, there are no takers for that leadership brand, similarly if a leader displays behaviors contradictory to what is outlined by his brand values, then also the credibility and respect of the brand is lost.

Conclusion

The innovative human being should need branding. The current innovation processes of human capital are within the four corners of human resource development and sociological researches. However, if these can be put outside the management books which are copyrighted and the leaders can be branded and styles can be protected under the IP law, a new trend of business improvement methods will be legalized and business and leadership methods can be more structured and recognized and more importantly, protected and enforced. This idea of registering a leadership style is maverick and may sound crazy to readers but it is an attempt to bring synergies into management cum leadership styles and legalized enforcement thereof.

Disclaimer – The article is the author’s views and not of the Wockhardt Group. It comprises collated information and is based on research from the public domain.

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