How can your HR processes support your company’s leadership brand?


by Carl Eichstadt

In this highly competitive modern business world, South African companies need to find solutions to differentiate themselves from competitors in the global and local marketplaces. One of the ways to assist with this is to develop a unique leadership brand for your company. 

What is your company’s leadership brand? 

Whether we like it or not, our employees and our company’s external stakeholders interpret what our company’s leadership brand is or is not, based on their direct and/or indirect experience of how your company’s leaders behave. You, as well as the company you own or work for, have a leadership brand which communicates the value you and your company offer to stakeholders, such as your:  

  • Customers;
  • Investors;
  • Employees;
  • Partners; and
  • Community.

Strategically aligning your company’s HR processes – particularly talent management, leadership development, performance and reward management – is key to supporting the successful development of your company’s leadership brand and company culture.

You have to get your employees on board when you develop your company’s leadership brand

Although the CEO and/or senior leadership have a significant impact on shaping a company’s leadership brand, they are not the only employees who represent the leadership brand. They may be instrumental in crafting the brand’s foundations but it is your employees and leaders at all company levels who, through their behaviour, demonstrate the company’s leadership brand to customers and other stakeholders on a daily basis.

For example, if one of the brand qualities that you want your company to be recognised for is that of quality customer service, align with a leadership brand that has the following leadership brand statement at its core: “The delivery of customer-focused results”. 

How do you create your company’s leadership brand?

A company’s leadership brand is the result of the purposeful integration of a company’s organisational leadership and brand to form a unique identity for its leaders that balances delivery on customer expectations and employee-organisational behaviour. 

Follow an ‘outside-in’ approach to building a leadership brand where customers’ and other stakeholders’ views are considered and integrated into shaping a leadership capability-leadership brand. This needs to be linked with the company’s ‘inside-out’ approach to leadership branding where employee behaviour and views are aligned with customers’ and other stakeholders’ perspectives. In this way, you are able to build and sustain the company’s leadership brand by involving key stakeholders and aligning your brand-building process with these partners.

In addition, your company leadership brand needs to incorporate an authentic distinctiveness that leaders at all company levels can relate and aspire to. For example, the identity of a global beverage company’s leadership brand is known in the marketplace as “building the next generation of talent”.  

It takes time to develop your company’s leadership brand 

Your company’s leadership brand should be tailored to your company’s circumstances and aligned with your company’s strategic objectives. This high-level process involves:

  • Describing your company’s leadership brand and the brand statement you want your company to have;
  • Establishing the values and leadership competency framework;
  • Involving stakeholders;
  • Developing leaders;
  • Continuously measuring and reviewing your progress; and
  • Communicating to employees and external stakeholders.  

To develop a leadership brand for your company, you also have to get the leaders in your organisation to develop their own authentic personal leadership brands. This process is guided by the company’s values. 

4 Steps to developing your personal leadership brand

Step #1: Craft your personal vision

Ask what it is that you want in all facets of your life. Figure out what:

  • Makes you special and unique;
  • Your values are;
  • You stand for; and
  • Your strengths are and which of these you can build on to contribute to your uniqueness as a leader.

Remember to be authentic-true to yourself.

Step #2: Define your personal leadership brand

Your leadership brand must capture your personal vision, which is the essence of your uniqueness and strengths:

  • Ask yourself how your strengths can be integrated into your unique personal leadership brand;
  • Pinpoint your ‘blind spots’: Your ‘blind spot’ is a behaviour you don’t know about but your colleagues are very well aware of. You might need to modify or change these to compliment your leadership brand.

Get as many perspectives as you can about your leadership brand

Consider the information that you receive from others and integrate these into your leadership brand.

Ask others what they feel your strengths and blind spots are. Ask those you work with, particularly those who will give you honest feedback, as well as your friends and family.

Test your brand statement with your trusted friends and colleagues to fine tune it.

Step #3: Develop your leadership brand scorecard

Incorporate your leadership brand statement into your behaviour. If you merely adopt your personal leadership brand but don’t live it, you’ll create cynicism in your employees because you promise a lot but don’t deliver!

Check in with those around you and get their feedback to make sure that your advertised leadership brand is evident in your daily work and interactions with others.

Step#4: Keep your personal leadership brand dynamic

It should evolve in response to the different expectations you face at different times in your career. If you have the self-awareness, willingness and openness to learn, and the drive to evolve your leadership brands, you will be more likely to be successful over the long term – and enjoy the journey more. Celebrate your success along the way.

This article first appeared on HR Pulse.

References

Ulrich, D., Allen, J, Smallwood, N. Brockbank, W., & Younger, J. (2009). “Building culture from the outside in”, Strategic HR Review, Vol. 8 Issue: 6 pp. 20 – 27: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/14754390910990955
Ulrich, D., & Smallwood, N. (2012).  What is Leadership? Emerald Book Chapter: Advances in Global Leadership. Volume 7, 9–36: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/S1535-1203(2012)0000007005
Ulrich, D., & Smallwood. N. (2007). Building a leadership brand. Harvard Business Review. Boston.
Eichstadt, C. (2013). The design and exploratory validation of an organisational leadership brand model for public listed South African organisations. Unpublished D.Litt et Phil thesis, Unisa.

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