Review of Leadership Brand by Dave Ulrich and Norm Smallwood

The more you read about the demands on salespeople–especially business-to-business salespeople–the clearer it becomes that leadership is now an essential attribute of the effective salesperson. In fact, it is hard to think about change management (now a significant addition to our repertoire), without considering the leadership skills necessary to lead change.

While Leadership Brand: Developing Customer-Focused Leaders to Drive Performance and Build Lasting Value is not aimed at the sales professional, it contains a number of insights that are tremendously valuable for both salespeople and sales managers (as we are nothing if not the ambassadors of our companies brand–as well as our own).

The idea that Ulrich and Smallwood add to leadership thought is that “leadership can and should also focus on the things that go on outside the company as much or more than what goes on inside the company.” The authors note that when they have approached leaders with this idea, they were usually seen as unoriginal and already included in leadership models. That is until they were asked this follow-up question: “To what extent do the competencies that your firm uses to define effective leadership reflect customer expectations?” I am always interested in a model that starts with the customer (as Drucker put it “A business exists to create a customer.”)

Ulrich and Smallwood define leadership brand:

“Simply stated, leadership brand is the identity of the leaders throughout an organization that bridges customer expectations and employee and organizational behavior.”

How many of us still measure the effectiveness of our leaders only by factors outside of delivering results for our customers and clients?

By focusing on customer and investor expectations, leadership brand ensures that those who lead deliver value to those who receive the outcome of their leadership efforts. Brand shifts attention to the way what happens inside the firm connects it to what happens outside. Effective leadership is not just about what leaders know, do and deliver, but about how that knowledge creates values to customers and investors outside the organization. If you think about what happens inside a firm as one island and what happens outside with customers as another, then the function of leadership brand is to form a bridge between the two–providing a way for leaders to translate what outside stakeholders know the firm for into what employees accomplish inside the firm.

Easily said, much harder to do. As such, Leadership Brand is a step-by-step guide to executing this idea within your own company, with each major step flushed out in its own chapter . . . my favorite of which is Chapter 3, Creating a Leadership Brand Statement, only because getting this right is so critical, and harder than it sounds.

If you are concerned with building leadership and building a customer-focused organization, you will find Leadership Brand: Developing Customer-Focused Leaders to Drive Performance and Build Lasting Value a wonderful road map to doing so.

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