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The value of clear leadership when navigating a rebrand

When people think about leadership in regards to a rebranding effort they may assume that’s referring to the CEO or CMO in the organization. In some instances that may be true, but stopping short and resting on that assumption is a recipe for failure. In short, you never want to ask who’s driving halfway down the highway only to find out they can’t actually drive.

The case for clarity as a result of leadership

Traversing hundreds of clients over twelve years in the branding space we’ve experienced the mission-critical importance of defining a key leadership role within each rebrand project. At Focus Lab we call this mission-critical role the “Driver.” Adopted from the DACI framework, this is a specific role we set our to define with our clients before each project begins. It’s important for us to understand, as well as the client, which client-side team member is responsible for driving this project and what that truly means.

Without a clearly communicated understanding of a single driver, projects become significantly more complex. Common pitfalls of this lack of leadership include inconsistencies in direction, timeline shifts due to starts to stops, and overall deterioration of the experience within both parties. Defining a leader, a.k.a. driver, solves this 99% of the time.

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” Lao Tzu

Leaders can be found at any level of the organization

In this specific role, an existing leadership title doesn’t mean you are the right person to drive. We’ve seen countless examples of successful drivers (leadership) throughout the entire organization. Sometimes it’s simply the most organized and best at wrangling the group, other times it’s the person with the largest perspective and decision-making power. This ranges from a lead designer, project admin, CMO, technology lead, or head of demand generation. Yes, sometimes it is the founder or CEO, but in our experience, they are better off avoiding the driver seat, allowing them to get lost in the details of the work and not managing the entire process.

Each team dynamic is unique, but the leadership needs of the driver are the same.

• The ability to facilitate meaningful conversations

• Managing stakeholders visibility and expectations

• Tactful and highly organized

• The ability to keep the project moving forward

• Empowered to make the decisions

Leadership is more than navigating logistics

This role may sound like a project manager since the strengths and duties are similar. It’s true, the responsibilities are similar, but there is an additional layer of leadership that comes into play. First, they are empowered by their team to lead this effort. When that happens they gain trust, decision-making power, and an elevated voice, essential for their responsibilities. Going further, this leader also leverages strong soft skills and serves as the bridge between the agency and the rebranding organization. Sharing additional insight and perspectives not always seen on the surface. I assure you, it takes more than logistics to reach success in these large projects. The driver’s perspectives, influence in the organization, and ultimately leadership capability are invaluable.

The subtle yet powerful effect of this leadership

When the driver does their job well, you almost forget how vital they are to the project. The process is surprisingly smooth, the direction is steady and clear, and questions or concerns are addressed before they get unruly.

This is the powerful leadership.


By Bill Kenney

CEO at Focus Lab — Helping the world’s fastest growing B2B brands lead and inspire.

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