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The importance of developing a Leadership Brand to drive the workforce of the future

Even though the workforce of the future will be driven by automation and digitisation, a key driving force that needs to be considered is Leadership.

Leaders are the single most important factor in setting the scene for a culture transformation and for ensuring that they create an organisational environment that is able to nurture, support and sustain the type of culture needed to drive the workforce of the future. Who you are as a leader, the values you embrace, and the beliefs you hold, is automatically transferred throughout the organisation through what you say, how you behave and the actions you take. This is why organisational transformation begins with the personal transformation of the leaders.

If the leaders don’t change, the culture won’t change. This view is supported by both Barrett and Schein along with many other influential thinkers on organisational culture change. According to Barrett “The link between the culture of an organisation and the personality of the leader is most visible when organisations bring in a new CEO. The new leader automatically brings a new way of being that creates a new culture. This is why organisations with strong high-performing cultures promote from within. They want to minimise any disruption to the winning culture. Such organisations also make it a priority to embed their values, behaviours, vision and mission in every policy, system and process that guides the functioning of the organisation.” (Barrett, 2006).

Historically, leadership development has focused on the development of individual leaders. We have developed sets of competencies that are so generic that they are not able to distinguish one organisation from another. However, what we are seeing now is a shift in focus from internal to external. In our view this shift is fuelled by the research done on “Emotional Contagion”. Through Emotional Contagion the way in which a leader within an organisation views a particular system, process or product has a direct impact on the customer experience. http://www.danielgoleman.info/emotional-contagion-and-customer-satisfaction/

This shift from internal to external focus is highlighted in an interview with Dave Ulrich and Norm Smallwood, Cofounders, The RBL Group and the leading thinkers on the concept of “Leadership Brand.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ytMnD853cTs According to Ulrich and Smallwood (https://hbr.org/2007/07/building-a-leadership-brand): “Companies build a leadership brand by developing leaders who enable employees to deliver the results expected by customers. Leadership brand is also embedded in the organization’s culture, through its policies and its requirements for employees. For example, the tagline of Lexus is “the pursuit of perfection.” Internally, the Lexus division translates that promise into the expectation that managers will excel at managing quality processes, including lean manufacturing and Six Sigma.”

In our view there are 6 steps that need to be taken to ensure that the Leadership brand is not only well defined and articulated, but is interpreted in such a way as to support and sustain the brand:

  1. We start by working with organisations to clearly define their desired organisational culture. This is usually done using a combination of in-depth workshops, employee focus groups, surveys and ambassador profiling (understanding what makes natural culture ambassadors different).
  2. We then translate the desired culture statements into leadership capabilities, behaviours and values. Using a combination of theoretical research from leading research institutions across the world and empirical models (generated by the data from the previous step) to create a recommended “desired culture”. As in the example of Lexus mentioned above, these capabilities, behaviours and values need to be at such a level where they are relatively easy to measure through e.g. competency assessments.
  3. The next step is to translate the desired culture statements into broader organisational capabilities, behaviours and values. Depending on the organisation, non-core differentiation may be done by job family, levels of work, geography etc. Once again, a set of appropriate assessments are developed to measure these outcomes.
  4. At this stage it is then important to measure the current organisation, or a sample thereof. For us at 4thTalent this means using the assessment protocol on our AI platform. The results are then statistically analysed and the client is presented with a detailed report of the findings. Measuring the current state of the organisational culture against the desired outcomes provides the organisation with a clear heat map that in turn, allows them to focus their development efforts where it matters most.
  5. Depending on the outcomes of the previous step, several options to develop organisational culture will be recommended. Options such as leadership development, competency development, behavioural development and career mobility are directly supported by the 4thTalent platform. This allows the organisation to automatically recommend learning journeys, succession paths and/or career mobility options for employees. Other options such as re-branding, above-the-line marketing content, employee activations, people change management etc. may also be recommended and be delivered as a consulting offering.
  6. As the journey progresses, we use our platform to re-assess and in doing so, track progress to its desired culture state. Based on these re-assessments, further recommendations to develop the culture may be made.

Aside from the path or tools you choose to help you in your Cultural transformation one thing to keep in mind is that Culture transformation is not a project, rather it is a journey. Therefore, start by focusing on building a strong and translatable leadership brand, one that truly supports the tenants of the workforce of the future, and thus is able to align supporting systems, programmes, processes and most importantly people to the desired vision, and values.

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