“You know when you have followers who are prepared to follow your inspired journey and be part of the accountability for it.”
Simon Haigh, The Growth Strategist
As the Boomers hand over the reins to the younger generations, the definition of leadership is transforming. Branding can support leadership through this transitional period.
How leadership is evolving
Being a respected leader no longer depends on specialist knowledge or experience. Instead, it is about people skills, coaching ability, and self-reflection. One trait that is still consistent is that to be a strong leader you must have the ability to inspire others to follow you.
Younger colleagues describe inspiring leaders as great communicators, who have empathy and motivate their followers to be innovative. New leaders are adaptable, passionate about what they do, seeing the big picture and the details. They know what needs to be done, and how to inspire people to get there.
Branding works best with leadership
Branding inspires followers, its natural partner is leadership. Branding, like leadership, has the power to differentiate and motivate. The post-pandemic climate has left many leaders confused. They don’t understand branding, or believe it to be part of the marketing department, which diminishes branding’s potential impact. As long as leaders think branding is part of marketing they will never find their true purpose. Branding is NOT marketing but it should guide marketing activities. CEOs need to respect branding as a distinct part of their business strategy.
Once separated from marketing, the brand strategy still needs CEO support. Branding is not done by one person or team. Cross-company collaboration is vital and involves everyone’s opinions, including the reception staff. Lack of collaboration across the whole company also leads to company culture breaking down.
When the company culture is misaligned with the company’s purpose, it becomes inauthentic. The company may not see it, but their clients certainly do. What is missing is a true understanding of why they are doing what they are doing, as Marty Neumeier says, ‘beyond making money’. What is their real purpose or direction? How are they going to create meaning for their audiences, and why should that audience care?
Clarity is key
Clarification of purpose is essential, and only achieved when company culture is part of its development. If purpose and culture aren’t aligned there is no over-arching direction. Everyone follows their own path, customer experience suffers and so does morale. In the past CEOs added more tangents, more ‘shiny stuff’ like wellness programmes.
When these situations are present, it is time to rebrand. The solution is not to keep doing the same as before. It is not about organizational restructuring or hiring more staff. Companies need their leaders to react the right way to fix it. What many leaders do not know is how rebranding can solve their problems. Building a strong foundation through brand strategy will guide you to authenticity, positive culture, and purpose.
Why purpose is paramount
Younger generations work and consume in different ways to the past. Personal fulfillment and values are motivators when they seek a company to work for or to buy from. To appeal to this generation, your purpose must be authentic, and your company culture must support it. Not enough companies are clear on their purpose, so how can their people and customers be inspired?
How brand strategy uncovers purpose
Brand strategy uncovers an organization’s purpose. To find your purpose, you must define what sort of a company you want to be, why your organization exists (beyond making money), who you want to serve, and why should they care. A solid brand strategy built with leadership support brings clarity and direction and inspires a loyal following from employees and customers.
A purpose must be authentic because if not, it will be perceived as fake. In our subconscious minds, where decisions are made, fake is untrustworthy. Our subconscious minds do not lie, and fake does not deliver the right results. Authenticity matters.
Branding, like leadership, is not about a financial goal. It is about building a community of believers. Branding has a positive impact on the bottom line but the financials are not the guiding light. Modern brands are defined by their believers. A strong purpose builds appeal, strengthens trust and commitment from your believers.
By Barbara Monahan
Brand strategist and designer at CUBE Design, Dublin, Ireland.