BY FARAI CHIGORA
Everything that we have come to know in this world, boils down to leadership. In the seminal work of Charles Dickens, he writes of leadership contradictions “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” These contradictions are the hallmark of two types of leadership, the one that brings darkness and the one that births light; success and failure; rise or fall. The same is true with brand leadership, it’s a deliberate process which can literally lead to darkness or light.
Brand visioning from the top bears more weight throughout the brand’s lifespan. Leadership has shown to be a make-or-break factor in today’s world, affecting everything from localised business practices to identification, recognition, and placement. As a result, brand leadership should go beyond being a company’s lifeline. Our own SMEs appear to have done very little in this regard (where brand leadership skills have been treated as general). Of course, over the previous few decades, the world has acknowledged that our entrepreneurial initiatives, models, and structures typically fail due to a lack of business management abilities (more light is needed here).
In this 20th edition, we open that closet in an effort to turn the unknown SMEs brand leadership practices into real knowledge. Where brand leadership by the founders/owners of our SMEs should be revisited and engaged as transformative rather than a boss servant way of management. To lead in a way that influences, inspire and stimulate brand visioning to all members. I have seen this as a big cavity in our way of doing business in the age of entrepreneurship for industrialisation. We can’t let it go and assume business to be usual. As the founder and CEO of your business you should reflect supreme brand leadership rather than waiting for a marketing function/agency to lead the way. This has been true for global icons in the names of Jeff Bezos at Amazon and Steve Jobs at Apple. They have been the source of their brands’ leadership before anyone else and subsequently conquered the world. One thing I know is that many of our entrepreneurs are yet to prepare themselves for that unique kind of brand leadership that ignites a spirit of moving in one direction with their followers, stakeholders, and partners. This is a trajectory that needs to move beyond simple business management concepts and leadership into an influence that intertwines and strengthens the structure of the business together with the mind and soul of individuals for a culture that presents a wowing brand. Many times we have a soulless type of brand visioning which separates brand focus by our employees, partners and stakeholders.
I believe that is the right time to reconfigure. As in the book of Ecclesiastes that there is a time be born and a time to die, but for our brands, we will prepare them for immortal life, beyond physical presentation into the spiritual helm that goes into generations (I call it the brand spirit which will last beyond the founder/owner). Even with the adage that has questioned many practitioners/philosophers “whether leaders are born or made? This edition will leave our entrepreneurs with an answer. There are brand leadership matters. I will advise my colleagues in the SMEs fraternity to test in their systems towards brand leadership (though not as hard rules of the game but food for thought). To start with; brand leadership idealism is when our CEOs lead by example as they also wear corporate colours, brand their vehicles the way they expect their lower levels and be engaged in corporate brand activities like any other member. Yet in our circles it is has been a superiority separation where the CEO instructs only but not be a part of the processes.
In most cases, we end up forcing such an influence and brew resistance to brand followership. It starts with us as the founders/CEOs of our thriving SMEs. To be engaged it to develop branding statements, lead the branding process, advertise the brand and keep close to all stakeholders. We should be at the forefront in developing and linking with brand advocates, ambassadors and partners. Most of our prospective markets know about the SME name and offerings but not the brand leader (of course a brand becomes an own legal persona but we add cherry on top through visible leadership that inspire and evoke lasting positive relationships). Also as CEOs of our SMEs we should encourage intellectual brand stimulation of and by our followers through training and education. Contemporary brand excellence matters come out of innovation and creativity through continuous learning. Where are you in this drive? Imagine the now digital brand marketing, brand globalisation, brand web management and any other. These need an appreciation through continuous training and learning.
As the face of your company, you should not only lead by example, but also create a culture that allows and encourages all employees to follow suit. However, we often mistake leading for educating. Of course, there is a fine line between the two, but sharing is what the brand leadership movement supports. It is not only the leader’s responsibility to attend educational trainings, but it is also the responsibility of every employee in the company to do so so that we may subsequently interact and share fresh insights as a movement toward a common objective of sustained brand visibility. As a result of this, we achieve what I call inspiring motivation, in which followers emulate and are inspired by a supporting CEO. They can even witness your brand leadership teaching and empowering them to succeed. I’m hoping that these dialogues will transform the way we lead our SMEs, because I’ve noticed that most of our brand followers grow resistant because they don’t feel like they own the brand. In the age of entrepreneurship through talking brands, there should be a central pivot that equals effective brand leadership with exciting followership.
- Dr Farai Chigora is a businessman and academic. He is the Head of Business Science at the Africa University’s College of Business, Peace, Leadership and Governance. He is into agribusiness and consults for many companies. He writes in his personal capacity and can be contacted for feedback and business at firstname.lastname@example.org, WhatsApp mobile: +263772886871.
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