Exceptional brand leadership is a must for a firm to be exceptional in today’s challenging business environment.
Those who lead and manage service firms recognize there are key individual leadership competencies required to support a firm’s overall success. These skills are well documented in business literature and successful leaders possess a solid understanding of what they are and how to implement them. Knowing this … what about a firm’s brand? Can a brand itself help lead? The short answer is yes: Exceptional brand leadership is a must for a firm to be exceptional in today’s challenging business environment.
Let’s start with a review of some top, well accepted, classic leadership principles that are core to a leader’s success:
- A leader brings people together to strive for a common goal/purpose.
- Leaders facilitate the concept of a “whole” being larger than the sum of its parts.
- Top leaders model excellence and inspire excellence in those around them.
- A solid leader is persistent and passionate.
- Good leaders draw out the strengths of their team members.
- Successful leaders listen closely to understand ultimate meaning.
- The best leaders provide clarity within complex, cloudy, environments.
- A lasting leader has unwavering integrity and can be fully trusted.
In today’s world, application of these leadership competencies is unquestionably demanding. Leaders face several factors, often working in unison, that complicate and challenge their efforts. For example, strong polarization from contemporary political and economic forces produces competing interests and works directly against efforts to drive toward a common goal/purpose. The typically wide generational constituency of people in today’s service firms, increasing focus on work-life balance, and complexity rising from global information access, are also common factors today’s leaders must confront.
A firm’s brand has many aspects, but at its core a brand creates a perception of what your firm is, both inside the company and to the outside world. To be effective your brand must be grounded in your culture, your leaders exemplify it, and internal and external communication align with it. When properly cultivated a brand effectively distinguishes you from other firms and can be leveraged for firm growth.
Just like people in leadership roles, a firm’s brand must exhibit strong principles of leadership for a firm to be truly exceptional. The most successful firms recognize this and work on their brand’s leadership abilities. In building a brand, firms typically first look to their mission, core values, vision, and business strategies for direction. Accordingly, these foundational firm components are the first place to review for your brand’s leadership competencies. As a case study, let’s examine how each of the leadership principles above manifests in Fitzemeyer & Tocci’s brand.
- A leader brings people together to strive for a common goal/purpose. The F&T mission includes the aspiration to be “The Owner’s Engineer” with a goal of providing thoughtful, practical engineering leadership. This goal is a rallying concept for internal firm members and specifically includes our ultimate client (owners) for a true common purpose.
- Leaders facilitate the concept of a “whole” being larger than the sum of its parts. The focus of the F&T brand on health and science specialties drives deep understanding and experience with a large body of client work. The depth of this knowledge can then be leveraged to transfer what we have learned to benefit each individual client we work with.
- Top leaders model excellence and inspire excellence in those around them. Our “Resourceful” brand core value requires working with enthusiasm and intellect, driven by a culture of continuous improvement to surpass what has already been achieved. Our brand specifically inspires all to take on the responsibility of developing solutions to challenges we and our clients face.
- A solid leader is persistent and passionate. In addition to the core value of being resourceful and continually improving our knowledge base and processes, our strategic vision includes passionate language focusing our teams to be nimble and high-performing – always learning and growing.
- Good leaders draw out the strengths of their team members. The F&T “Respectful” brand core value requires embracing all team members’ (internal and external) unique talents and a focus on the success of others – our employees, clients, vendors, and the public.
- Successful leaders listen closely to understand ultimate meaning. The F&T brand explains the real meaning behind our service to our clients. We engineer facilities and infrastructure that promote wellness and keep patients, students, and staff safe. Our service is ultimately in support of what our clients tell us their real mission is.
- The best leaders provide clarity within complex, cloudy, environments. The F&T brand simplifies our internal and external strategies into five easy to understand pillars: Learning & Growth, Clients, Operations, Marketing & Branding, and Financial. All service strategies are evaluated and measured against the five pillars to ensure clear alignment with the overall brand strategy.
- A lasting leader has unwavering integrity and can be fully trusted. The F&T “Respectful” brand core value demands honest and ethical behavior while interacting with an open mind, focused on the success of others. Our “Reliable” brand core value also directs us to make clear requests of each other, be dependable in our commitments, and be a trusted resource to our client and peers.
After reviewing our brand against the leadership principles presented above, I was pleased to discover we have some strong leadership fundamentals. There are surely many more classical and contemporary leadership principles that could be further synergized into our brand and strengthen it further – this will be my next step. I encourage all firm leaders to review their brand components through a leadership lens and see where you too can strengthen your brand’s leadership potential.
Scott LeClair, P.E., is a principal and executive vice president at Fitzemeyer & Tocci, a full service MEP firm specializing in healthcare, higher education, and commissioning. F&T provides leadership in engineering consulting through our focus on sustainability, systems integration, and our principal-led, multi-disciplinary project teams. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.