Leadership Brand, Anyone?

I have been in the HRM field for too long. I have witnessed the highs and lows of the profession. I have seen ideas that worked and those that failed miserably. One such idea that continues to gain popularity is the Competency-Based HR approach. 

Competency models, the end-product of such initiatives, are nothing more than specific desirable behaviors. As a result of these crystal clear behaviors, HR decisions on whom to recruit, how to train, and whom to reward are greatly improved. The effective use of Competency Models ensure investments in people directly support the achievement of the organization’s strategic goals. More and more organizations are rushing the development of different types of competencies—core competencies, technical competencies, and leadership competencies. 

Talking about leadership competencies, I am amazed at how some organizations develop a long list of leadership competencies: about 10 to 15. It appears the rationale applied is: the more, the better. This should be stopped.

Even superman will find it hard to possess all those competencies. The greater challenge is not just having a list but asking whether or not the list is relevant to the business and if it can be reasonably lived by a person, by a leader

One solution to this dilemma is to develop a Leadership Brand. A leadership brand projects the uniqueness of how its leaders behave and is crafted in a way that people can easily identify with. The Leadership Brand is an extension of the organization’s brand. Behaviors consistent with the Leadership Brand promote the organization’s brand. 

One of the greatest advantages of having a Leadership Brand is the rationalization of the long list of leadership competencies we developed. For instance, if the Leadership Brand developed is “Agile Leadership,” then competencies like change, innovation and resilience would make sense. If the desired Leadership Brand is an “Empowering Leader,” then competencies like coaching, teamwork, and delegation would be appropriate. 

Ever since I got involved in Investors in People work since 2005, I have had the privilege of working with several outstanding organizations in crafting, implementing, and evaluating Leadership Brands. So if you are convinced you need one, here are a few simple steps you can follow:

First, clarify or develop a clear company brand. Your company brand is how you differentiate your organization from your competitors. Meaningful company brands are drawn from the company’s unique capabilities. It answers the question: How can we capitalize on our strengths in such a way that we gain advantage over our competitors in serving our chosen markets?

Secondly, craft a Leadership Brand by answering the question: How should our leaders behave so that they are able to promote our company brand?

Thirdly, once the overall Leadership Brand has been crafted (Caring Leader, Visionary Leader, etc.), review your list of leadership competencies. Retain those that are relevant and take out those that are not consistent with the Leadership Brand. 

Fourthly, design a training program that will help leaders “live” the Leadership Brand

Finally, deliver the program to all leaders and regularly evaluate the application of the Leadership brand. 

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