The leadership of an organisation is the biggest factor to attracting, engaging and retaining the best people.
However, the reason many organisations fail to make the connection between how they engage with their customers and how they engage with their employees – and it is the leaders that set the strategy and direction of how this should happen.
The phrase “people leave their manager, not the company” is clearly relevant from an employer brand perspective; it also encapsulates very aptly reasons why organisations need to be focused on building collective or group leadership skills – a leadership brand. The leadership brand clearly defines what the leaders within a business are known for, around which they build their leadership development initiatives.
Companies with a successful leadership brand have leaders who collectively live and breathe the brand in order to influence employee behaviour to deliver a better customer experience. Every interaction has three possible outcomes:
• it reinforces the brand
• it damages the brand
• it misses an opportunity to build the brand.
And in a world of social media revolution, people’s experiences, good or bad, can be broadcast to millions in a matter of seconds. If leaders are aligned in their values, behaviours and abilities, employees will receive a consistent experience; this in turn continually reinforces the message or behaviour that the organisation wants them to adopt.
How to develop leadership branding in your organisation
The first step to establishing a leadership brand is to assess existing individual leadership skills within an organisation. The second is to develop a leadership strategy and framework based on a set of desirable collective behaviours that is necessary to best serve customer expectations. While these behaviours will vary considerably from one organisation to another, a number of ‘base-building’ behaviours typically characterise organisations 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 recognise the importance of establishing a good rapport with their employees
• communication – enhanced communication skills are a must for all leaders: the ability to establish a rapport, interact with and influence people at all levels, articulate information and check that the message has been understood – as well as challenge appropriately
• consistency – often overlooked, this is an important collective skill for all leaders. It is about the ability to adopt 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.
Leadership branding does not prescribe ‘one size fits all’ behaviours; the behaviours of a specific leadership brand must reflect the brand values and customer expectations of the individual company. So if a company 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.
The benefits can be truly significant for companies of all sizes. Where a successful leadership brand is in place, both customers and employees are treated well at every ‘touch point’ they have with the company. Customers are confident that the company’s leaders will respond to their needs consistently and appropriately, and employees know what to expect and feel engaged. This positions the company strongly for future development and growth.
Naheed Mirza is managing director of organisational development specialists, Ipso Consulting. Ipso works with senior management teams helping to align leadership ability with business strategy.
To register for our breakfast briefing on leadership branding held on 23 October 2012 please register at: