Leadership + People x Culture= BRAND SUSTAINABILITY


How often have you sat in a meeting where there were only three key issues for discussion?

  1. Impact of leadership on the organisation
  2. Evaluating the key technical & behavioural competencies of the people or the employees that has created the result the organisation has (for that year)
  3. Exploring the benefits (and negatives) of the work culture that’s in operation

Chances are your response would either be—“once” OR –“not at all”!! This doesn’t surprise me, as in the Asian context, these are quite sensitive issues to discuss and are always swept under the carpet as not directly related to business activity. But that’s where a huge mistake is made!

Leadership, the people in the organisation & the operating culture—all three– are key elements in how the organisation brand is perceived and in its sustainability i.e. ability to be profitable over time and keep delivering value to its eco-system.

I have written earlier on how leadership affects brand sustainability and on work culture and how it creeps in  and on the importance of having engaged employees.

Leadership styles in the C-Suite have a direct correlation with the attitude and performance of the senior management team (who are tasked with strategy development & execution). If the leadership style is one that shows the leader to be authentic, open & communicative, chances are the senior management would have clarity (of purpose) and be well engaged in the business mission. This, in turn forms, the working culture of interactive-ness, co-partnering on key projects & approaching activities as a team.

On the other hand if the leadership is aloof & there is a gap between the leadership & the senior management then there will be lack of clarity on both, strategic goals & communication. This can be disastrous for the organisation from the point of view of business growth, employee morale & brand reputation. As a leader one of the key requirements is understanding the prevailing culture and in using individual leadership styles to generate engagement and buy-in from the employees.

Why is buy-in critical?

A leader is given the mantle of leadership. Yes, always, the head of an organisation is the leader by virtue of the C-level designation and yes, the buck stops there with regards to reporting of  organisational performance to the board. But neither the designation nor the reporting process provides the leader the buy-in of the employees or the people who are the face of the brand.

Obtaining buy-in from the senior management & rank and file takes some hard work. A few key attributes that are “must-haves”are:

  • empathy
  • humility
  • getting hands dirty

These three attributes, by far, are the ones that endear a leader with the team. When people sense and feel that their leader is understanding, listening and willing to work together to get the job done well, most throw in their lot behind this type of leader. Net result is an engaged and energised organisation where the authentic energy is palpable by the respective stakeholders as they interact with various people from the organisation.

Does all of this sound too esoteric? Actually it is highly possible to do this in a way where it becomes a regular behaviour and over time a habit. Here’s my 3-step approach:

  1. read and understand the working culture that is prevalent,
  2. build empathy with your teams through honesty and transparency, i.e. as a leader be authentic and therefore yourself
  3. identify how the activities benefit your team members in terms of their KPI’s and provide your team with a direct line-of-sight to the organisational goals.

Try this in the new year and let me know how it goes.

Have a very Happy New Year.