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Martha Stuart has benefited from being the face of her company, Martha Stuart Living Omnimedia, and the company has mostly benefited from being connected to her personal brand. Oprah Winfrey similarly has built a powerful brand through her image, which represents the underlying power of her company. When CEOs brand themselves as aligned with their company’s values, such marketing works well.

But in other cases, the executive’s brand image competes with the company’s image.  For some companies, a executive brand holds little promise but instead hinders spirit, teamwork, innovation, and productivity as a result of the lack of focus on the company itself.  It is important that employees never feel like second-class citizens, without input into the company’s success.

Perhaps for this reason, even though Toyota has become the most profitable car maker in the world and will sell 9.34 million vehicles this year, its CEO maintains a low-profile. DaimlerChrysler and other car makers often feature their CEOs, and few have had the same level of success.

Chief executives have the important job of facilitating and leading the innovation, efficiency, and spirit of all members of their teams.  When this person becomes too involved in self-branding, the company loses sight of where it is going, and the focus centers only on one person, rather than one company.

Discussion Questions:

1. Would you rather work for a company that has a famous CEO or a company that focused on employee development?

Hymowitz, Carol, “Some CEOs Advertise The ‘Me’ Brand—With Limited Success,” The Wall Street Journal, July 16, 2007.