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How can a leader model brand?


Once you’ve done that deliberate work of articulating your brand strategy – that thing that your company stands for – it’s time to live the brand.

Brand strategy is only as valuable as it is used as a faithful guide. When you choose your brand strategy, you are choosing your company’s promise. And so now with everything you do, you need to deliver on that promise.

Leaders are uniquely situated to model the brand, both internally and externally. So, leaders: model your brand. Demonstrate with your words and with your actions that your brand is the priority. Let your brand guide you and let other people see that it’s guiding you. This will give others permission and encouragement to use the brand as their North Star too.

Here’s an example.

The former CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, came back to the helm of Starbucks in 2008. On February 26, there was a note posted on all of the locked doors of the 7,100 U.S. Starbucks cafés, and here is what that note said:

“We are taking time to perfect our espresso. Great espresso requires practice. That’s why we’re dedicating ourselves to honing our craft.”

They closed all 7,100 U.S. Starbucks stores for most of the day in order to retrain baristas on how to brew the perfect cup of espresso. This craft of magical espresso moments was the Starbucks promise, and Schultz as CEO was worried that they weren’t delivering on that promise.

Closing the stores for training was a public demonstration of the sacredness of the Starbucks brand. Though expensive in the short-term—an estimated cost of $6 million that day—in the long term a very valuable move. Within the year, the brand was flourishing again, despite the Great Recession.

Schultz’s bold move not only improved the quality of Starbucks’ beverages, but it also deepened customer love. It signaled to customers, employees and investors that Schultz meant to nourish the Starbucks brand; that the fulfillment of the Starbucks brand promise was more important than a day of sales.

Look to your own leadership behavior. Are your actions showing that you believe in your brand? Are you using brand, in a public way, to filter your difficult decisions?

Brands earn the trust of their customers by making a promise and then delivering faithfully on that promise. For your people to deliver on your promise, they need to see their leader delivering on that promise with everything big and small. Model your brand, and then everyone at your company can use it as their North Star.

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