Developing Your CEO Brand

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Today’s CEO positions come with a certain degree of celebrity.

In a crowded industry, scaling quickly and intelligently is key, and a CEO with a strong brand and background can be called upon to help. That was the case for Kalahari Biltong, a jerky entering the competitive meat snack market. Cofounders Tyler Noyes, Brett Johnston, and Robinson Ginsburg knew that they would need a seasoned business veteran to take the reins and scale the company fast.

The company turned to celebrated industry executive Chris Hickey to help Kalahari distinguish itself among its many competitors, according to Elizabeth Crawford’s FoodNavigator-USA article, “Startup Kalahari Biltong Brings in ‘Hired Gun’ CEO to Speed Scaling Process, Navigate Crowded Category.”

Hickey brought a lot of experience to the table, including building brands, partnerships, and platforms for other products in the market, giving him familiarity and experience that would help Kalahari grow quickly.

“[Hickey] explains that the lessons he learned in those roles will serve Kalahari well as it seeks to disrupt the already crowded meat snack category,” Crawford writes. By building his CEO brand, Hickey made himself an exciting resource and then a trusted partner in Kalahari’s growth.

In determining how to build their unique CEO brand, C-suite executives like Hickey must consider the inherent abilities and preferences that they bring to their positions. Some prefer the short-term, fast-paced challenge of helping a company attain profitability. Others would rather develop a company into a well-oiled machine that could run with minimal chief executive involvement.

Whichever leadership challenge they prefer, obtaining a degree from an Executive MBA Online program can help aspiring CEOs evaluate their strengths and career goals as they plan their initial branding efforts.

The Different Archetypes of CEO Branding

Different business situations call for different solutions and leadership styles. Executives who understand their skill set will be better able to adapt and grow into the specific needs of the CEO role in their company. Such executives tend to be able to focus on company culture and working on their company—rather than in their company—according to the Edmundson Group’s article, “The 5 CEO Personas and Why They Matter.”

But even with the right approach and perspective, CEOs may go through a period of trial and error before they discover the persona that works best for them. The Edmundson Group’s article identifies 5 persona types:

  • The Growth CEO: Chief executives who want to sustain forward momentum, increase in size and scope, and stay ahead of the competition fall into this category.
  • The Hired Gun CEO: Hired guns tend to move from company to company with the goal of making an immediate and substantial impact on each business. Most corporations looking for this type of CEO either need a turnaround to keep from dissolving or are preparing to merge with or be acquired by another company.
  • The Strategic CEO: These CEOs are executives who stay in one place for extended periods, sometimes as a company founder, and eventually want to prepare the company for either a sale or a transfer of leadership.
  • The Career CEO: Career CEOs reach the C-suite early in their careers and often strive to be CEOs over multiple companies, constantly learning and growing in their profession as they accumulate experiences.
  • The Auto-Pilot CEO: Successful companies may spend years reaching a point where they operate smoothly. Auto-pilot CEOs push their businesses even further to the point where they need little CEO involvement and business can be conducted with almost no input from the board of directors.

However, the Edmundson Group also points out some pitfalls. Growth CEOs may not invest the funds necessary to grow a business. Auto-pilot CEOs can be so eager to remove themselves from day-to-day operations that their executive teams end up working 80 hours a week, and career CEOs may neglect to surround themselves with people who can help them to learn and grow.

Deciding on a CEO persona is an important step, one that might change over time before executives find the styles that fit them best. Even CEOs within the same archetype, however, may find that unique components of their personalities also help define their executive brand.

Corporate Executive Traits That Help to Define a CEO’s Brand

In the current business climate, chief executive positions come with a certain degree of celebrity. Charismatic leaders such as Steve Jobs or Elon Musk can bring companies into the limelight. In addition to inspiring employee loyalty, they can help drive up the stock price and motivate people to buy more of the company’s products—and a strong brand can help with this effort.

Raoul Davis itemizes several factors that executives should consider when creating their persona for the board room and the public in “6 Main Components of the CEO Brand” on

  • The CEO personifies the company: Especially in today’s world of social media and the almost instantaneous spread of information, CEOs should realize that consumers and investors will perceive their personal brand and corporate brand(s) as synonymous.
  • The CEO brand can elevate or sink a company’s reputation: If a CEO is involved in a scandal, the company will likely be affected as well. On the other hand, CEOs who become involved with charitable causes can enjoy good press for their companies as well.
  • The CEO’s performance is key: CEOs who manage to raise the stock price, increase market share, motivate employees, and execute company strategy can increase their personal brand in the process. If a car manufacturer successfully launches an electric automobile, for instance, both the company’s and CEO’s brands will benefit.
  • The CEO’s personality is a factor: Investors and consumers value qualities such as sincerity, honesty, faithfulness, loyalty, charisma, and modesty. While forming their brands, executives and C-suite candidates should focus on reinforcing positive traits.
  • The CEO needs to be able to handle prestige: Winning multiple awards as CEO can be a double-edged sword for many executives. No matter how successfully careers unfold, executives need to practice humility and dedication to maintain a winning streak. They should not become too comfortable with their status and should always assume that opportunities for learning and personal growth are still coming.
  • The CEO is also a person: People relate better to public figures they admire and respect, and both admiration and respect rely heavily on image. CEOs who present themselves as ethical professionals tend to be more liked than executives who devote little time to maintaining their public image.

Executive leadership expert Colin Graham adds that new CEOs do better on average when they exhibit a sense of humor, an ability to read an audience, and consistency in business affairs.

In his Forbes article, “Want to Be the Next CEO? Five Subtle Must-Haves to Be CEO Ready,” Graham describes a CEO-ready candidate as someone who exhibits an executive presence, shows mastery of time management, and operates transparently in business-related proceedings. These traits, along with Davis’s 6 considerations, can help aspiring chief executives build a brand and achieve the C-suite position they seek.

Washington State University’s Executive MBA Online Degree Program

Executive MBA Online students will graduate with one element of a CEO brand already in place: a master’s degree. The Executive MBA Online program at Washington State University’s Carson College of Business offers the curriculum and leadership skills that prepare graduates to become influential business leaders and effective decision makers. Contact Washington State for more information.


Recommended Reading:

The Importance of a Business Executive’s Reputation

4 Reasons Executives Should Embrace Social Media

4 Key Strengths of a Successful Executive MBA Student



Startup Kalahari Biltong Brings in ‘Hired Gun’ CEO –

The 5 CEO Personas and Why They Matter –

6 Main Components of the CEO Brand –

Want to Be the Next CEO? – Forbes