Leadership and Branding - Development Principles For CEOs

Apr 6


Hemant Karandikar

Hemant Karandikar

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This article explains the principles of leadership and branding, showing similarities. It goes beyond the obvious and the common and focuses on the essentials. The article discusses some common methods of leadership and brand development. It pinpoints their shortcomings. For the CEO, the article concludes that leadership is branding.


Leadership and branding are hot topics. Leadership development programs are quite popular. There are many conferences and seminars on the subject of branding. Leadership development and brand development consume a lot of resources of businesses.

Leadership means different things to different people. It means ability to inspire. Leadership is charisma,Leadership and Branding - Development Principles For CEOs Articles courage, and even sacrifice. Leadership requires vision. Leadership is talked about in rarefied atmosphere of CEO conferences, business schools, HR meets, and strategy meets. There seems to be an unstated and unanimous agreement that leadership is too important, too-sweeping-in-its-scope, too-good-to-be-described, and therefore too-complex-to-be-systematically-deployed concept. Everyone is convinced that such indescribable leadership must be good for any organization.

Branding too captures imagination of people. For some CEO s it is a reverential bowing item to be ticked off the agenda. For CFO s it is a black hole of cash. Sales people think it is a watering hole for unsuccessful ex-salesmen. For M & A specialists it is a valuation game. It is a playground of creativity for advertising agencies. It is PR first for PR agencies. For many, branding means eye catching, entertaining, beautiful visual and audio communications or smart copy. Everyone knows branding and everyone has definite opinions about it.

Is there then any connection between leadership and branding? Leaders are responsible for branding. But they are also responsible for many other things. Are there any fundamental linkages?

Connection between leadership and branding

The answer might be found in people, since leadership and brands exist in minds of people. Brands provide neat and crisp symbols denoting product performance levels, shared experiences, dreams, aspiration and expectations of actual and potential users.

Who will deny that leadership too deals with shared dreams, aspirations, and expectations of all stake holders -customers, employees, vendors and others? Like brands, leaders are seen as icons. Similarly, leadership without its own constituency is unthinkable. Leaders build constituencies through shared understanding of goals and ways to achieve them.

How do communities come into existence? A unique feature, a benefit, some newness, or drama sets people talking. When people talk, when they integrate products in their lives, when they constantly share their experiences, problems, or solutions communities are formed. Communities can also be built around new categories of products. People love to talk. They need to share things. It is for a company to create or articulate such uniqueness, to express it evocatively, and to nudge and support its customers into sharing it. Can this be done by marketing department alone? Can this happen by bombarding customers with advertisements, direct mail, or price promotions? Can this happen without a strong leadership? The answer is no. Brands may seem to come into existence through some accidents. But is takes sustained and consistent efforts to bring about branding.

Just as brands raise the bar of customer expectations, leaders broaden horizons of their people. They inspire people to outdo themselves. Leadership means moving way from authority to respect, and from respect to inspiration.

Leaders must have vision, mission, and agenda for their constituencies. They are being constantly observed, emulated, or criticized. They need to make statement all the time. Successful leaders know this intuitively and develop distinctive styles of their own.

Some CEO s become great leaders without any formal training. But that does not reduce importance of training and learning. Almost everyone can improve leadership skills through systematic efforts. Learning Leadership requires sustained efforts. Leadership coaching can help in accelerating leadership development.

Leadership and career planning

Just as branding requires involvement of everyone, great leadership comes about only through developing leaders at all levels. If organizations have to develop and attract talent they must have well designed learning leadership processes in place. Leadership development must be integral to career planning.

In today's world leadership is branding. Successful branding and great leadership requires vision, values, performance, style and community building. Both require making difficult choices, sticking ones neck out, readiness to face guillotine when the time comes, and grace to accept success. Leadership and branding are possible only with passion, thinking, working, first walking alone, and then rallying others around.