As a CEO, your personal brand is a critical face of your company. But when a transition of leadership is in the works, the CEO cannot be the only personal brand aligned with the company brand. As a part of succession planning, here are some key steps to take to promote the personal brand of the next leadership.
- Identify Your Next Set of Key Leaders
When contemplating a transition of leadership, it’s important to identify the next set of key leaders. This is not only applicable to CEOs. The other executives of the company should have some form of transition plan to allow for a new team to work with the new CEO. This process applies to both intentional transitions – where the change in CEO is a known and planned-for event – and also to crisis transition planning. Who will be the interim leader in case of a sudden departure of the CEO? Is that interim leader visible as a face of the company or will this person come as a surprise to stakeholders? Needless to say, a known individual is preferable. And the way to make that individual known is to build her or his personal brand and affiliate it with the company.
- Identify Your Transition Timeline
When possible, a planned transfer of power is a process of six to twenty-four months. Leadership should know and plan the timing of the transition, and work back to create a successful transition plan. Otherwise, the stakeholders receiving abrupt news of a change in power can have a crisis of confidence. For example Sergio Margione of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles died in July, but it became known that he had been treated for a serious illness for over a year. With the news of his death, the value of FCA shares dropped by 10%. Had FCA known and prepared for the passing of its leader, the valuation might not have had such a stark hit.
- Identify the Audience Who Needs to be Aware of the Coming Leadership
Once you establish that there will be a leadership transition, the next step is to identify the stakeholders who need to be prepared for the change. These include internal parties like the board and employees who need to know who their leadership will be and how they think. You also need to consider stakeholders like top clients and community leaders who will need to learn to know like and trust the successor leadership.
- Establish a Plan for Brand Transition
Leadership visibility should not be ad hoc. In preparing for a transition, you should outline when, where and how you want to introduce and promote the visibility of the new leaders. You should also assess the key strengths of current and future leadership and explore the pros and cons of promoting them. For example, Steve Jobs was well known for innovation, design and the user experience, as well as his disruptive (innovative) qualities. On the other hand, Tim Cook’s brand is about pragmatism, fairness and consistency. In transitioning between the two leaders, making a point to put Cook’s strengths in the best possible light was an important element of leadership brand transition.
Your transition plan should take into account the type of transition. Is it going to be a culture change? Or will it be the passing of the baton to a leader of similar strengths? Is this a family business that needs to address the pros and cons of nepotism? Will the leader come from outside the company? Such a leader presents different opportunities for the company than a leader coming from the inside. An effective transition plan will identify pros and cons to highlight and address them respectively. For example, an external hire can represent innovation and exciting change, but the new leader’s lack of knowledge of corporate culture needs to be taken into account as well.
- Some Personal Branding Opportunities
Once you have a plan that addresses the strengths and weaknesses of the new leader, it is time to take the transition public. There is no need to make an announcement before the time is right, but new leadership can be brought to visibility so that, when the announcement comes, the person is a known entity. Visibility comes through participation, and the potential new leader should be present at client meetings, board meetings and other opportunities for key stakeholders to become familiar with this person. Conference participation, particularly in a role as a speaker or presenter will also give the new leader a chance to establish a personal brand that is associated with the company. Press releases, participation in the social media and brand visibility strategy of the company and personal brand alignment with the company are additional steps that the new leader can take as apart of the transition plan.
Since no one can be a CEO forever, a transition plan is a critical part of any business. When the successor is known, part of that plan should include establishing and promoting the personal brand of the next leader. Taking strategic steps to promote the personal brand of the next leader will ease the transition and build critical groundwork for that leader’s success.
Jen Dalton, CEO of BrandMirror, has over 15 years of experience in strategy, marketing, and coaching. In 2012, she made a gutsy move into the entrepreneurship space, launching her branding business and became a certified master personal branding strategist. She specializes in building your digital thought leadership on LinkedIn and other social media. You can find her bestselling book, The Intentional Entrepreneur, on Amazon, which highlights how business owners can leverage their personal brand to grow their business faster.