Leadership Brand: Developing Customer‐focused Leaders to Drive Performance and Build Lasting Value

Kristina Maiksteniene (ISM University of Management and Economics, Vilnius, Lithuania)

Baltic Journal of Management

ISSN: 1746-5265

Article publication date: 16 May 2008

417

Keywords

Citation

Maiksteniene, K. (2008), "Leadership Brand: Developing Customer‐focused Leaders to Drive Performance and Build Lasting Value", Baltic Journal of Management, Vol. 3 No. 2, pp. 232-234. https://doi.org/10.1108/17465260810875532

Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited


Finally, a book for human resource professionals about building corporate image and strengthening company's competitive edge. Or, should we say, a book for marketers about leadership? In the light of converging managerial functions and roles, it may depend only on the mindset of the reader!

To those who are HR‐minded, Ulrich and Smallwood's book Leadership Brand is a strong statement that approach to leadership should not be detached from what the firm stands for in the eyes of customers and investors. It is a reminder that a powerful and charismatic leader can develop a personal brand that overpowers the organization's own brand, and that company's long‐term success depends not so much on building leaders, but on building continuity of company‐specific leadership over time.

To marketing professionals, the book emphasizes a need to create leaders who are differentiated from leaders in other firms. As marketers seek to reassure that customer experience at every touch point reflect consistent company's value proposition and desired brand image, there is a timely reminder: too intense a spotlight on the personal qualities of the individual, or “celebrity” leader may be naïve and incomplete. Similar to corporate brand encapsulating many individual products, leadership brand should stand on top of the company's leader brand portfolio as the ultimate identifier.

Authors define leadership brand as a shared identity among organization's leaders that differentiates what they can do from what rival organizations' leaders can do. Leadership branding occurs when many company's leaders exhibit distinct leadership practices over a number of years, and think and act in ways congruent with the desired product or firm brand. The very term brand in the book title should be understood as continuity metaphor.

Majority of book chapters are organized around presentation of a six‐step process for building leadership brand:

  1. 1.

    build a case for leadership brand;

  2. 2.

    create a leadership brand statement;

  3. 3.

    assess leaders against the brand;

  4. 4.

    invest in leadership brand;

  5. 5.

    measure leadership brand investment; and

  6. 6.

    build leadership brand awareness to key stakeholders.

Step 1 is an important prerequisite step in building a leadership brand, and is the step most frequently skimmed over. It involves getting top leaders understand how investing in continuous leadership will help them and the organization reach company goals and achieve strategies. Similar to positioning statement in customary brand marketing, a firm needs a clear, simple statement of leadership brand of what it wants the leaders to be known for. Step 2 calls for providing a unifying framework that promotes common leadership development and aligns customer expectations and employee behaviors across the organization. When assessing leaders against the brand (Step 3), three elements need to be considered – the degree to which leaders have the right stuff, at the right leadership stage, and delivering the right results in the right way. Here, authors immerse the reader in leadership development interpretation of the Dalton and Thompson (1986) stages model and demonstrates that the model excels at illustrating leadership transition stages. Investing in leadership brand (Step 4) requires some novel assumptions about what makes for effective leadership development. As building any brand includes both the fundamentals and the differentiators, apart from generic leadership competencies, there is a need for substantial amount of specific leadership training backed up by tailored work and non‐work experience. For leadership cadres to share a consistent leadership brand, careful succession planning should be taking place. In Step 5, two approaches to measuring returns on leadership brand are presented: the competency model and concrete return on the investment in training. Authors see certain flaws in the competency model, defined as a set of attributes, based on the assumption that good leaders share a particular array of characteristics, and suggest to use the concrete return on the investment in training approach – the so‐called return on leadership brand. The final Step 6, calls for building leadership brand awareness to key stakeholders. In the respective chapter of the book, authors discuss how to launch a communication process that regularly convey leadership brand to various stakeholders – customers, investors and employees, so that the brand is well understood and appreciated. A number of tools to achieve leadership awareness are offered, such as internal and external leadership reputation indicators, framework for analyzing and understanding stakeholder interests, gaining others' support for building awareness for leadership brand.

The entire book is built on a premise that leaders matter but leadership matters more. Rather than merely outlining the abovementioned six steps, authors succeed in immersing readers into the process of leadership brand building. Additional chapters and tools in this book are instrumental in telling how to preserve leadership brand, what are the implications of personal brand. Appendices identify and discuss criteria for a firm brand, and present additional information on firms with leadership brand.

Being at the crossroads of several disciplines, Ulrich and Smallwood's Leadership Brand contributes to breaking down the traditional compartmentalization of knowledge within organization. Based on research and backed up with numerous real examples, this book makes a good read for both analytical and inspiration‐seeking minds who seek to ensure the long‐term institutionalization of a company brand and who want to avoid generic leadership.

References

Dalton, G.W. and Thompson, P.H. (1986), Novations: Strategies for Career Management, Scott, Foresman, Glenview, IL.

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