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What is the single most important element of brand management? 

That was a question that I was asked following a recent speech to a group of healthcare leaders in Philadelphia.

My response:  There are two elements that trump the rest – performance and how you treat the people you work with.

A great image, good intentions, and an engaging personality can take a leader only so far.  In the end, especially in an economy in crisis where the margin for error is slim, performance is critical.  The ability to produce results that meet or exceed expectations is the cornerstone for an executive who wants to advance their career.

A great performance by a leader is diminished if he or she treats badly the people who helped produce the results.  Not everyone on a successful team will be an “A” player.  It is how leaders deal with those who are struggling – through coaching, counseling and, ultimately, a warning that is carried out with concern and respect and always behind closed doors – that helps solidify a leader’s brand.  Poor performers are not necessarily bad people.  Demonizing them is not the answer.  Fostering a brand as a tough ass, when toughness is not the only solution, will drain a leader’s reservoir of good will and eventually limit results.  That is the basis for many leadership changes.

A leader is also diminished when he or she blames others for mistakes for which they are ultimately responsible.  Employees are smart.  They can see right through explanations – feeble excuses – for mistakes.

Career brands are rarely established by one great performance or even by a spectacular failure.  For most leaders, their brand is built one day at a time.

© 2012 John Gregory Self

To invite John Self to be a speaker at your meeting or function, contact Kathleen Sullivan of The Sullivan Group in Houston.  John is an entertaining and informative speaker who talks about leadership, current events, and life’s wonderful ironies in a speech that is laced with humor and satisfying stories regarding the challenges we all face. He consistently receives high ratings for his presentations.