Dr Irfan Hyder (Dean CBM-IoBM) shared his insights on ‘Branding Leadership’ at Business Leaders Conference, held in Karachi in 2017. The eminent business leaders of Pakistan addressed to the participants of the conference on the various topics pertaining to the theme of the conference.
Leadership, in the eyes and minds of many, has been observed in a more general and a broader fashion from the point of view of an organization, a country, and a society. On a personal level, as per Dr Irfan Hyder, leadership is individually defining one’s own personal brand and through that developing his own leadership identity. The ways and methods to develop a leadership style that represents each and everyone’s idiosyncrasies had been the ground for research, debate and discussion at many universities for the last couple of years.
Looking back at the history of leadership, and how it came to be, Dr Irfan brought the attention of the audience over the difference between a manager and a leader and how their meaning changed over the past decades. It appears that in definition, they used to be called administrators around forty to fifty years ago that later changed to be called managers, and now we are calling them leaders. IBA, which was established 55 to 60 years ago, is named Institute of Business Administration; CBM came around 25 to 30 years ago along with and LUMS are using the word ‘management’ to represent themselves. In today’s time, there are signs the new Institute’s that are coming up are calling them leaders or leadership Institute’s.
Leadership or a leader, as per his beliefs, is someone who brings something to the table, while a manager is someone who wants to get work out of you or make the work done implicitly through his or her the subordinates.
There’s this famous quote from John F Kennedy which states: ‘Ask not what your country can do for you ask what you can do for the country’. The last word can easily be replaced with one’s country, his society, the community he is a part of and what not. The moral behind this quote: The true essence is in not getting that power, authority or position first and then working towards bringing something on the table. This is a typical attitude people have in the organizations today; they expect to work hard only after they are given the respective responsibility, authority, or power. At the time of promotion, for example, such people fail to see that the one selected by the higher management instead of them for that very responsibility and authority they were yearning for, was simply because that person was taking initiatives before that responsibility was even given to him. He was proactive in his delivery and took the initiative to bring something to the table first.
When we observe all the social leaders around us, we witness all the greatness that they brought forward and gave to the world, and to this country. Abdul Sattar Edhi: He received tremendous donations from the masses for his organization; he was renowned for his philanthropy and love for the children, the homeless and the poor. Similarly, Ruth Pfau, a German doctor renowned in Pakistan for treating leprosy and tuberculosis patients for over half a century, started with one institution and at the time of her demise, there were more than 70 such institutions operating all around the country.
When we look at business leaders such as Sam Walton, who was asked in his biography (which was published the era he died) what did he do for his country that made him one of the richest person in the world? He, who was not known for doing charity or giving donations unlike Warren Buffett who donated half of his wealth to charity, replied:” I have provided the people with the lowest cost possible so if you think about the savings the people have made through my offerings it would be a tremendous amount”. Similarly when we see what the famous author and consultant Jim Collins is bringing to the table, the expertise and the insights, which defines him in his leadership and of course Steve Jobs: the fun, excitement, uniqueness ,and sleekness of the products as well as his entire life that has been aspiring for the entire world.
Dr Irfan continued the session further illustrating his views, stating that what one brings to the table is known as his value proposition, his own brand. Once identified, all that is needed are three simple elements to develop one’s own unique brand:
- Be Heard
- Be Seen
- Be Read
Dr Irfan gave examples of Malcolm Gladwell, Indus Hospital, Dr. Abdul Bari: everyone following their own beliefs, working hard toward developing their own value proposition and defining their own individual brands, each unique and exocentric in their own way. What it took these individuals to develop their value proposition were those several thousand hours of hard work and the blood, sweat, and tears shed along during that time.
Once a value proposition establishes that truly defines an individual’s brand, create concrete examples that people can see. It can be in the form a small management change or small victories, rather than a planned big bang that would mesmerize the world. To be seen is to contribute, create small wins and victories over the period of those thousands of hours spent establishing that value proposition, slowly but gradually moving towards where one wants to see himself and his brand. A leader will be spawning off spinning off several other leaders like him during this time by being a role model that is worthy of emulation, with the character and with the ethics that would impress upon those who are following him. This spin-offs of himself will be inspired to become great leaders analogous to him by following the path he paved, yet creating their individualistic leadership brand.
What makes a leader is being more than a role model. A leader has to lay emphasis upon being someone worthy to be followed by others, engage in mentor-ship, give his followers that small nudge here, some guidance there, a lead there, and developing those leads to a position where someone else can shine better than he is. This is what a leader is all about, explained by Dr Irfan.He further explicated the leadership role as someone who is dependable. One in the organisation, who is an expert in his or her work, a wise advisor and a great consultant, someone with open doors who is willing to come out and help others and handhold them to the next step. In a summary, what needs to be seen and witnessed by the world are not regular status updates on the social media or daily pictures published on weekly magazines, but the work, contributions and concrete examples of the leaders.
The next element in establishing a personal brand is to be heard: to make the word of mouth about an individual precede him when he meets someone. This word of mouth is created by the followers who have been with the leader the entire time; praising his personality, nature, ideas, and way of life. The words of those people, who have been mentored, led, and appreciated by the leader, are the words that need to be heard by everyone. When an issue arises and people mention a particular someone to be contacted regarding the matter or his name comes up when the value he represents is being discussed elsewhere, that is what it means to be heard and a value proposition being heard.
It is not possible to develop a personal brand without being read. Being read means to first read something worthwhile and connecting this with an individual’s own personal experiences, to churn out something original out of it. There are multiple platforms where one can convey his personal messages, stories or share his experiences with the rest of the world. One can write books, articles, and personal blogs etc where one writes what his or her value props, where he or she excels over others and where others are inspired so much with this piece of writing that they recommend it to others and have an open discussion on various platforms, all engaged in conferring about the work, experiences and personal events written by him (a leader).
What contributes to developing a leadership identity? It is to act as per the perceived image the developed value proposition holds. It is to live as per that value and as per that brand. All relationships, the time spent with one’s friends, family, colleagues, and subordinates, that value proposition should keep spreading passing on and enveloping anyone and everyone who comes in contact with it is able to understand it, link their own experiences with it, and be inspired by its charm and charisma; and ultimately, this leadership identity will one day become that leader’s legacy that the world will remember for years to come forth.
Dr Irfan concluded his session with a small gesture of illustrating how an individual can and should try to spend his days, especially those who inspire and are bound to become leaders in the future. Because there are so many eyes around us, as if we are constantly observed a microscope; we should always be true to whom we are, avoid saying or doing anything that we do not believe or which does not reflect our own self.