Get Aligned, Get In Line. So you’ve got a great personal leadership brand, you know what it stands for and you have been successful in harnessing the power of storytelling to link the brand to your life journey? That’s still not enough because, leaders pre-eminently do not exist in a vacuum. Their personal leadership brands must speak to the constituency they lead, or seek to lead.
In practical terms, this means the corporate brand and the personal leadership brand of the man or woman at the helm have to mesh. At the same time, though, the leader’s brand cannot simply be panel-beaten into the right shape in order to achieve this alignment—that would risk damaging its authenticity and its connection with the leader’s story (see my previous blog).
The same point can be made of the corporate brand.
If more than judicious tweaking is needed, it could be sign that the leader is, in fact, in the wrong job.
One can see the dangers of this kind of misalignment most clearly in politics. Britain’s Labour Party offers a truly startling example of a corporate brand that has become divorced from its stakeholders, and is thus making life very hard for its new (-ish) leader, Keir Starmer. Labour has gradually and apparently decisively moved away from its original stakeholders in the working class and become the party of the urban, university elite, the epicentre of the new woke orthodoxy. When the new Labour leader took over, it looked like his personal leadership brand as a safe pair of hands, a more inclusive and centrist leader, might help Labour reconnect with its alienated working class base. But it seems as though Starmer is actually having to adjust his personal leadership brand to get aligned with where Labour’s brand currently is.
There are many ways to analyse what is going on, but the key point is that Starmer’s problem lies not so much in his own personal leadership brand but in the fact that the organisation’s brand is in serious flux—it’s not clear what Labour’s brand really is. One thing is clear, though; if the leader’s brand and the party’s brand are not aligned, for whatever reason, the electoral prospects are substantially reduced.
Leaders thus need to spend a lot of time understanding not only their own brands but the brands of their organisations.
One final point to remember that a personal leadership brand is ultimately about distinguishing the leader from any competitors. It thus has to communicate what differentiates him or her, and what his or her unique “selling point” is. Aligning the personal leadership brand to the corporate brand thus has to be done carefully or it could risk jeopardising that essential uniqueness.
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