Leadership behaviors for future brand growth

Over-performing marketing leaders excel in human-centricity, bravery and pro-active business partnering
16 October 2023
a woman presenting to a team
Mark Visser

Managing Director, Consulting, Amsterdam

Silke Mous

Director, Organisational Performance, Amsterdam Consulting Division, Kantar

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In a world of constant disruption where elements like war, rising inflation, and unexpected environmental disasters are shaking up society, polarizing responses from companies are seen in their strategic and operational response. We see two types of companies: those who are struggling and are losing the narrative of the marketplace, and those who are anticipating the future and are able to swiftly adapt.
Kantar’s Insights 2030 report highlighted that senior business leaders in leading organizations see customer centricity and imagination as key drivers of growth. Successful leaders are able to have clarity on the rapidly shifting marketplace and guide their brand towards future growth.

Growing brands in turbulent times requires leaders to act differently

In order to navigate and thrive through change, marketing leaders need to develop different behaviors, shifting their focus away from technical expertise and more towards behaviors for impactful delivery. The emphasis is increasingly on how leaders do things, how they show up and how they are elevating the impact of the commercial organization through customer centricity and imagination.

Igniting the spark of imagination

Insights 2030 has proven that leadership behaviors are one of the most significant levers and enablers of change, acting as a catalyst that ignites the spark of imagination. Building on what we learned from the drivers of customer centricity and imagination, we see six critical leadership behaviors aligned to three themes of Empathy, Provocation, and Activation.

leadership behaviours


Human-centricity revolves around a desire to get to the why behind human behavior. Leaders must have: 

1. Curiosity – A strong desire to learn about human behavior and their interactions with brands in the world around them. Being curious about what the future may look like to unlock new opportunities. A strong future focus and awareness of the assumptions underlying different scenarios is critical to action upon new insights quickly. 

2. Emotional Intelligence – The ability to understand the self and others to enhance impact and collaboration. Emotional intelligence has repeatedly been seen as one of the biggest predictors for leadership success, though we rarely explore how we can change and build it for individuals and teams.


Being brave means daring to provoke the business and being comfortable with uncertainty, leveraging deep human insights and future perspectives to take a stance and provide recommendations with a perspective to drive brand growth. Leaders must: 

3. Be Courageous – Adopt a provocative mindset to challenge the status quo and potentially manage difficult conversations. This is not about who shouts loudest. It is about standing up and championing a perspective that is grounded in human insight. Courage does not come naturally to everyone; it should be seen as a muscle that needs to be exercised and strengthened through practice. 

4. Embrace risk & experimentation – Imagining future perspectives requires you to feel comfortable with uncertainty. Shift away from validation and certainty to feeling comfortable saying ‘I do not know for sure, but I am going to find out and learn from it’. The unlock will be to dare to bring in new ideas, experiment, and identify successes that can be scaled quickly. It won’t happen overnight, and it may take time to generate sustainable culture change in the team and organization.

Pro-active business partnering

Marketing leaders must proactively build relationships with the rest of the business, engaging commercial stakeholders as trusted partners to take consistent action. They must: 

5. Be action-oriented – Be close to business priorities and leverage insights and commercial knowledge to drive agile decision-making, helping to prioritize and focus on the actions that matter most to the business. The key is to keep things simple and consistent over time; doing this has proven to increase brand differentiation and predisposition the fastest, hence leading to faster brand growth. 

6. Own accountability – Be intentional in proving the value of marketing by taking ownership of your personal reputation alongside the marketing function. Dynamic performance management – to understand the impact of initiatives, shifts in critical assumptions, and changing demand in the marketplace – is at the heart of ensuring the best brand ROI.

The Kantar BrandZ Most Valuable Global Brands 2023 report, including analysis on the world’s most valuable tech brands, is available now at Kantar BrandZ Most Valuable Global Brands 2023 report.

For an overarching view of a brand’s performance, Kantar has launched a new, free interactive tool using BrandZ’s wealth of data. BrandSnapshot powered by BrandZ delivers intelligence on 10,000 brands in more than 40 markets, offering a quick read on a brand’s performance in a category.

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