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Branding Leadership: Mastering Competencies from Outside In


Leadership versus Leaders are both sides of a coin as both matters. The cynosure is the leader and embraces the qualities of the individual and how they lead and involve others.

A leader pinpoints on competencies like knowledge, skills and abilities and shows clear path to the individuals so that they adept in potentiality and are able to manage others.

Emphasizing on leadership highlights the calibre of leaders within an organization, not merely an individual leader but the entire systems and the processes that generate these leaders.  

Outstanding leaders might appear and exit but the tide of leadership remains forever. Genuine leadership doesn’t deal with a single person but also it takes into account the entire process.

We can appreciate and gain knowledge from any person who are impressive or excellent leaders. The final outcome of an organization’s leadership robustness is obtained by building leadership pipeline that entrust stakeholder’s confidence in achieving future results.

Leader focuses on an individual whereas building leadership emphasizes on the organization that generates leaders. Leadership brand is the identity of the leaders throughout the organization that bridges customer expectations, employee, and organizational behaviour. (Ulrich et al, 2007).  

Leadership necessitates the opinion about the X factor, or the systems and processes that raises the next generation of leaders who will respond to the future customer and investor assurance.

Branding Leadership also helps in building next generation of leaders. Firms with leadership brand have an eternal and durable reputation. When the organization brand inters winds with its leadership brand, the former sustains and outlives any single individual leaders. 



The World of HR Today  

The main function of Human Resource is to add value to become the root of competitive advantage. When HR converges on generating talent acquisition and building firms capability which connect to customers to have a competitive advantage.

It has the capacity to be elemental to major business outcomes: market share, revenue growth, profitability, and sustainability.  

Objective of HR  

There are six noteworthy objectives by which customer focused HR adds values towards increasing organization’s business.  

Competencies – The CORE 6   

1. A Master Thinker 

2. An Energetic Leader Who Initiate, Execute, Influence, and Inspire  

3. A Great Communicator and a Skilled Builder of Relationships and Networks 

4. A Wonderful Team player  

5. A Live Example to Deciding, Acting, Delivering and Staying Fast  

6. A Lifelong Learner for High Technical Expertise   

HR Professional Should be the Master Thinkers in the Organization with Respect to Manpower and Organizational Issues  

Line managers proposes that HR is more of an internal police function, that HR professionals act as a process facilitator or transactional administrator and focus more on internal HR matters rather than critical business issues.

However, it is proposed that they should be the highbrowed architects designing talent acquisition and organization agendas for their firms.  

HR Professionals Must be Leaders, Equal Associates with Line Managers to Accomplish Organization’s Objectives  

Take for example, if a CEO suggests that the organization would proceed in a particular direction while the rewards and remuneration system recognizes employees for going in another direction then there is a detachment so the impact of leaders along with collaborative HR practices will nullify each other and competition wins. 

Thus, it is emergent that HR and line leaders be hitched together and headed in accomplishing organizations objectives.  

HR Should be Team Player and Contribute Substantially Towards Revenue Growth   

When there is no demand for the product, its benefit is zero no matter how much of it is manufactured. Therefore, HR professionals must have a beeline to the outside customers.

HR from Outside-In means the HR professionals need to partner the business and if the clients of the business are the outside customer then HR’s line of vision through team work must run outside -in.   

HR should be a Great Communicator to Create and Sustain Economic Assets that are Appraised and Remunerated by Capital Markets  

  • Pledging by delivering compatible and predictable results  
  • Developing an eloquent and imperative strategy for the business future that motivates great communication with customer, product innovation and spatial expansion.  
  • Banking upon the core competencies by identifying and providing tangible investments in different resources.  
  • HR Needs to Decide, Act, Deliver and Stay Fast to Get both Talent Acquisition and the Organization Objective in Same Page  
  • The talent acquisition can be achieved by hiring the best individuals in the industry as per the requisite competencies defined by the organization to have a competitive advantage and HR should encourage employees to work as a team and decide, deliver and act together to achieve organizational goals. 

HR professionals should be a Lifelong Learner for High Technical Expertise as per domain specific, primary source of competitive advantage and create practices that support it:   

  • In pharmaceutical industry a company needs to have high technical expertise of the chemical structure of medicines that can treat any disease. If an organization identifies something, then in due course of time its competitors will probably know it as well.
  • Does an organization have a culture that promotes creativity, innovation, learning and technical know-how? In the era of technological stir, HR emerges as the epicentre in building competitive advantage.  


From the inception of, the Human Resource Competency Study was outlined in close association with leading academicians, practitioners, HR association and line managers. There were surveys done in 1987, 1992, 1997, 2002, 2007 and 2012.

The research team scrutinized the relevant literature on business trends, HR Practices, and competencies. Secondly numerous interviews were done of various professionals, line managers, academicians, and consultants in face to face interviews or semi structured focused group.

2012 research advances the global range of the study by including the leading HR professional organization in Australia (AHRI), China (51jobs), India (NHRD), Latin America (IAE), the Middle East (ASHRM). Northern Europe (HR Norge), South Africa (IPM) and Turkey (SCP).  

Overview of 2012 Findings  

Six domains of HR competencies were identified represented in below figure, (Dave Ulrich et all 2013, Global HR competencies)  

1. Credible Activist  

In high performance organization’s HR acts as credible activists. They are strong skilled builder of relationship which helps in establishing good rapport with key stake holders and contribute towards business results.  

2. Strategic Positioner  

High geared HR professionals assimilate the global business scenario – the social, political, economic, environmental, technological, and demographic trends that supports the business. They are actively involved in expanding customer focused business strategies and elucidate business strategies into attaining goals.  

3. Capability Builder  

Capability represents what the firm is good at and known for. It embraces innovation, speed, customer focus, efficiency and the conception of the meaning and plan of work.

HR professionals engages the team members in a dialogue about their hopes, dreams, and aspirations so that they can inspire a shared vision which is communicated to all.   

4. Change Champion  

Efficient HR professionals promote their organizations capabilities to revolutionize and then transcribe that into effective change processes and structures that builds competitive advantage.  

5. HR Innovator and Integrator  

In the organization the major competencies of effective HR professionals are their abilities to integrate the HR practices around a few critical business issues.

High performing HR professionals with leadership qualities develop unique winning capabilities for the business by constantly delivering trend setting solutions to its business and people.  


Source: (Dave Ulrich et all 2007, Leadership Brand) 

The next factor of HR innovator and integrator is the leadership brand. A leadership brand has both invisible fundamentals and visible differentiators of its own.

It is the identity of the leaders throughout an organization that bridges customer expectations and employee and organizational behaviour, Ulrich et al, 2007.

Traditional leadership is from inside out and leadership brand is from outside in. Leaders must get the invisible basic correct and efficiently organize and deliver the fundamentals that keep their products and services at levels that meet and exceed customer expectations.  

What is the Answer to the Age-Old Question – Whether Leaders are Born or Bred?   

Recent research puts it at fifty-fifty, that is half of leader’s traits grow from heritage and half are acquired from experience. An analogy to this end could be why some people wait for the organization to spoon feed the way to serve a customer and why some people they do not have to fed / reminded much, to serve customers; they just do it as mere deliberation.

In an organization context we need to define what percent of leadership code could be learnt from experience and what comes from heritage. This will give us a reason to focus what leadership behaviours to look for in recruitment and what leadership behaviours to focus on leadership development.   

After carrying out a focused group of interviews with thought leaders, valued colleagues it is estimated that the leadership code includes everything to constitute good leadership.

Working hypothesis is that the code covers somewhere in the 60 – 70 percent range, Ulrich et al, 2007. As per the exemplary studies of leadership, the leadership code comprises of 5 dimensions:  



It is said that think global and act local. While local patterns change more rapidly than common global patterns hence the key competency for any organization may have its significance for a considerable period but for local customization the behavioural descriptors need to be revisited at regular interval.  

In the light of above, this study aims at designing a leadership training module for the senior executives of NTPC in India.   

An Energetic Leader Who Initiate, Execute, Influence, and Inspire  

Masters the art of modelling the way, inspiring a shared vision, challenging the process, enabling others act, and encouraging the heart.  

1. MODEL the Way    

1. Having a clear sense of mission, knowing where we are headed and seeing the end results.  

2. Doing all that builds trust and practice integrity.   

3. Being able to take a judicious decision in the absence of clear picture, precedents, and guidelines. 

4. Going the extra mile to seize the opportunity for challenging and bigger initiatives.   

5. Being able to uncover the gifted abilities of other individual.  

6. Strategists: Leaders need to have a point of view about the future and be able to position the firm for future customers.  

7. Displaying good peripheral vision for how to scope, scan and interpret signals hidden in plain sight.   

8. Engaging everyone shopping for ideas, search for the best practices as well as the “next practice”  

9. Being able to consistently invest the majority of his time in fewer areas that produce greatest results.  

10. Knowing what causes momentum in the organization and how to keep it going.  

2. INSPIRE a shared vision   

Discovering a compelling common ground in every vision   

1. Engaging the team members in a dialogue about their hopes, dreams, and aspirations  

2. Convincingly articulating the vision of the future to the members of his team  

3. Executers: Leaders need to be able to make things happen in order to deliver results by sharing the vision to all.  

4. Generating buy-in of solo experts to practice the power of collective “group think”   

5. Communicating the common vision in an attractive, appealing way with bestselling words, imagery, and metaphors  

3. CHALLENGE the process   

1. Asking incisive questions that open minds and incite the imagination.   

2. Having the courage to say no on logical grounds, even to influential and powerful people and even if it will make them unhappy or upset. 

3. Challenging the status-quo in the absence of a blessing or “buy-in” from key individuals in the organization.  

4. Personal Proficiency: Make bold and courageous decisions and build trust.  

5. Having great Emotional Quotient to stay on course even if fatigued or discouraged.  

4. ENABLE others to Act  

1. Communicating an activity with a clear line of sight to business outcomes  

2. Enlarging people’s sphere of influence and strengthening others by sharing power and discretion.   

3. Creating a climate for learning and always encouraging reverse mentoring.   

4. Human Capital Developers: Leaders need to work on their future employees to delegate and build future talent.  

5. Making it safe for others to experiment.  

6. Providing challenging and value-added stretched assignments for all of his direct reports.   

7. Is able to go for small and big wins together on a consistent basis   

8. Having the courage to give honest feedback so that his direct reports could learn and grow.  

5. ENCOURAGE the Heart   

1. Relating to people more head-to-head and heart-to-heart.  

2. Adding fun to everyone’s work   

3. Infusing energy, hope, and joy into the lives of the people that you relate to. 

4. Talent Managers: Leaders need to work with their current employees to motivate, communicate and encourage them.  

5. Personalizing recognitions and making every celebration memorable.   

6. Making every relationship to last for a lifetime.  

6. Technology Proponent  

Technology has enabled and transformed HR performance, it has become increasingly important for HR to be tech-savvy, recognize the important contribution that technology can make and propose and promote technology solutions appropriately. Technology proponent is rated among lowest competency domain in professional effectiveness.  

Overall Findings  

  • Credible Activist is the highest rated competency domain in every region  
  • Technology proponent and total rewards are the lowest rated competencies domain in every region  


Review and Discussion of 2012 HRCS India Findings, Dave Ulrich et all 2013  

In this economic, governmental and social context HR departments and line executives in India as elsewhere in the world have had to radically transform their vision and expectations of HR.

Infosys spends US$ 65 on the training of every US$1,000 revenues; this compares to the US$6.17 spent by IBM. In 2012, 1,800 respondents participated in the HRCS survey in India/ The six competency domains have their own impact on individual and business performance in India.  

  1. Credible Activist  

With an average score of 4.28, HR professionals in India are most adept in this domain. This provides a solid foundation for their involvement in other activities that are more centrally related to the business.   

Coromandel International Ltd. Is a fertilizer, specially nutrients and crop protection company with in the Murugappa Group. There was an intense discussion about the feasibility of keeping Crop Protection manufacturing unit at a location that was being converted into a business office centre.

According to HR of Coromandel was convinced that traditional well accepted pattern of paying compensation and easing people out in this type of situation was not beneficial.

HR introduced a program called “Go Kiss the World”, HR represented empirical research on the results of the traditional layoff schemes. This study showed no matter how attractive the initial separation compensation after a few years vast majority of former employees were found to be in poor health, physically and financially.

The company through this program sponsored employee trips to the new manufacturing locations. As a result of Coromandel’s HR professionals striving to be credible activists, all stake holders benefitted.

Coromandel is now ranked by Business Today as one of the top 20 best companies to work for in India.  

  1. Capability Builder  

The HR professional in India are at a reasonable high level on capability builder competency domain. Larsen Tourbro (L&T) is a professionally managed technology, engineering, construction, and manufacturing company.

L&T has successfully built and sustained capabilities in technology and services solution development. L& T capabilities are reinforced through its Framework for Linking Appraisals with Incentives and Rewards, integrated with ICONS (Immense Contribution of Noteworthy Significance) – an individual and team recognition program.

Its succession planning process emphasizes promotions based on performance and contribution to L&T’s organizational capability.  

  1. Change Champion  

HR professional in India confront the challenges of change at a high level of 4.09 out of 5.00. Excellent examples of HR professionals acting as change champions are found at HCL Technologies.  

In 2005, the company line leadership together with senior HR professionals envisioned an organization that would recognize employees as primary value creators in the customer -employee relationship. The overall philosophy was called Employee First, Customer Second.  

The responsibility and accountability were with the employee to create extraordinary levels of customer satisfaction and was facilitated by 360-degree evaluation. Best performers become member of 02 Club, and they are honoured with their families, presented with trophies.  

HR also instituted the Extra-Mile Programs, which was modelled after airline frequent flier programs. Each employee receives 300 miles / year to give to others.  

  1. HR innovator and Integrator  

HR professional in India function as HR Innovator and Integrators at reasonable high level 4.07 out of 5.00. HR Professionals at Bharti Airtel are effective examples of how to add value as HR Innovator and Integrators.

It is one of the largest cellular service provider in India. In late 2000 HR professionals at Airtel have clearly outlined a leadership competency framework that forms the bedrock of its people management systems.

The “Jobs Never Done Before” initiative encourage Airtel’s employer brand position to be future-facing and customer oriented and to “give scale to those who have entrepreneurial DNA, to charter to the unchartered”.

A recognition process called Kudos creates online visibility and incentives for employees to demonstrate Airtel values and leadership competencies. 

BleAp and ELeAP are programs for high potential middle management through which they are groomed for business leadership roles which includes classroom teaching, on the job training, special projects and career movements spanning two to three years.

As a result of these practices HR at Airtel is building unique winning capabilities for the business by constantly delivering trend setting solutions to its business and people.  

  1. Strategic Positioner  

In India, HR professionals’ function as strategic positioner at 4.09 out of 5.00. Dr. Reddy Laboratories is exceptional examples as strategic positioner.  

Dr. Reddy is an integrated global pharmaceutical company. Its more than US$ 2 billion threshold in annual revenues. Increasing competition, commoditization in generic markets, pricing pressures are changing business scenario for pharmaceutical industry.

So Dr. Reddy has revamped its business strategy with changing business needs.   

  • Alignment: Organization design, cross-business collaboration, harmonized practices, and employee engagement.  
  • Accountability: Performance metrices, robust reviews and total rewards  
  • Ability: Talent management, Leadership development  
  1. Technology Proponent  

HR Professional in India are least skilled in this domain 3.95. Wipro Ltd. is a significant example serving as role models of the technology proponent domain. In 2012, Wipro ranked as India’s most valuable brand.

Wipro HR has automated wide range of transactions including payroll processing, taxation, employee data management, hiring and on-boarding/ off-boarding and exits, salary and wage, incentives, performance management, leave and absence administration, time and attendance monitoring.  

Wipro technology has changed the role of HR and redefined how employees can be enlisted to build solutions for business and customers alike.  


Leaders have the dual responsibility of sourcing talent and creating organization capabilities. As we contemplate leadership for the business context there are three trends:  

From Command and Control to Coach, Collaborate and Communicate  

Leaders get things done through others. In complex changing global organizations, leaders cannot govern by observing and telling others what to do.

They have to get things done through the shared commitment to common goals. They need to enable others to act.  

From Why and What to How? 

Better leadership boost customer share, productivity, and financial performance. Leadership in future will increasingly attend to how leaders do what they know they should do.

Leaders need to Model the way and challenge the process. It can be called as leadership sustainability and believe that HR professionals should help leaders not only to figure out why and what they should do but also how to do it.  

From Leader to Leadership  

Leaders are the specific individuals who direct work, often at a top of a company. Leadership exists all the way through the organization, in both domestic and global markets.

Effective leaders work to optimize their teams and individuals within their teams; leadership seeks to integrate the entire hierarchy of leaders to optimize organization wide performance.  


Future requirements of HR  

Given the prospects of external change, we anticipate a future where human ingenuity and organization capability, as guided by the insightful line and HR leaders will emerge as the new frontier of competitive advantage. 

Different global regions may take different paths to achieve competitive advantage but the agendas around talent, organization and leadership are similar.   

With emerging business conditions and HR granularity, we envision HR continuing to focus on the three demands:  

  • Talent 
  • Organization  
  • Leadership 

The competitive challenge is to make the organizational whole more productive than the sum of talented individuals.  

Leaders are the charge of bringing talent and organization together.  

Annjaan Daash, Dr. Prabir Pal and Dr.S. Pragadeeswaran

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