Leading a Brand

A new study finds that transformational and transactional leadership is better for long-term brand health.

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Here’s the most important reality check to consider when really leading a brand from the inside out: it needs to be a transformational leadership process, rather than a transactional leadership process. One of the most interesting and comprehensive studies to quantify this fact was published in 2009 in the Journal of Marketing. Based on a thorough review of the data, the study team concluded:

Managers would do much better by opening their minds to a Transformational Leadership approach, which would entail behaviors such as articulating a unifying brand vision, acting as an appropriate role model by living the brand values, giving followers freedom to individually interpret their roles as brand representatives, and providing individualized support by acting as a coach and mentor. This would allow followers to experience the feelings of relatedness, autonomy, and competence in their roles as brand representatives, which would ultimately spill over into the commitment, authenticity, and proactivity that characterize a real brand champion.

The study differentiated this model of transformational leadership from a transactional leadership model that primarily focuses on contingent rewards (clarifying expectations and offering rewards when expectations are met) and management-by-exception (monitoring and reprimanding deviances from prescribed performance standards). The study didn’t dismiss the value of transactional leadership. In fact, the data suggested that successful transformational brand alignment initiatives incorporate some layer of transactional elements. But the data stunningly demonstrated that organizational behavior changed with greater significance when a transformational leadership approach was emphasized.


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