In my last blog post, I described the six most common reasons why customer centricity initiatives often fail. One of these is the lack of commitment demonstrated by senior leaders in the organization.

Here at five types of leaders you see most often, and their level of involvement:


This leader delegates the business of creating the customer-centered culture to others and reviews occasional reports. He is not really fired up about customers and focuses on other perceived success factors like operational excellence or technological superiority.


This leader hears the plans and signs off on the final budget. He generally forgets about it until the next budgeting cycle, where his most important question is typically: “What’s the Return on Investment?”


This leader is interested in customer behaviors. He regularly asks for and monitors various customer metrics (dashboard) and doesn’t do much else.


This leader causes a vision for the organization to be created. He spends significant time with customers, and also attends internal meetings to improve service. He approves changes in appropriate systems and building blocks, picks his top performers to head up the customer/culture initiative and starts every meeting with reports on the organization’s customer health.

One of my customers used to have a cardboard cutout of a person placed in a chair at all executive meetings. On the cutout were the words: “I am the Customer. What would I say?”


This leader understands the power of culture. He actively manages it for maximum employee involvement, customer acquisition and loyalty. His business card may read something like “Chief Customer Officer”. He might define leadership as: Creating an engaging environment where each individual is willing and able to carry out the vision and mission of the organization.”

Questions for you to consider:

What type of a leader are you?

What type of leaders do you see most commonly in your organization?

What can you do to create a aligned and powerful leadership team?

How can you ensure your customer centricity initiative succeeds?


Guest post by Richard Whiteley

Richard is the author of The Customer-Driven Company, Customer-Centered Growth, Love the Work You’re With and, most recently, The Corporate Shaman. He is a co-founder of The Forum Corporation and winner of the Instructional Systems Association Distinguished Service Award. Richard is a long-time consultant and advisor of UP! Your Service.

5 replies
  1. Saleem Bava
    Saleem Bava says:

    The Pacifist, The Banker and The Tracker groups are very common in the ME region where I work. Though I regard a Role Model and Culture Engineer more acceptable, a good leader should really have a combination of all qualities. I would consider more team involvement in decision making and see things through the customers view. Customers must be able to express their views, provide feedback and suggest improvements. All Customer Touch Points must be considered with a welcoming attitude. Its definitely a customers world of business!

  2. Naresh Vassudhev
    Naresh Vassudhev says:

    All other Leadership Theories now take a back seat. The situation is customer!


    Naresh Vassudhev

  3. Pratap Nambiar
    Pratap Nambiar says:

    The leaders that I have seen are those who have the surface interest in the customer who they view from a distance. They are willing to do whatever is necessary to connect with them but throug a delegated resource. This is largely because they think they are pressed for time. And they are keen to create and analyse the appropriate metrics. So I could conclude that they are really not customer centric.

  4. david
    david says:

    Hi Richard

    I think the danger with this sort of ‘list’ of leader types is that it creates neat boxes….whereas the real world of leadership is much more messy! And so, like Saleem, I’d say that they all have qualities that are useful. As much as I dislike the effects we saw of leaving the ‘leadership’ of companies to the accountants, for example, I’d still like to think that the head honcho was keeping his eye on the budget! And that there was more than a passing interest shown to customer metrics!

    This stuff is important……but I’m in total agreement with you that, without the commitment of the Role Model part of leadership, any initiative is doomed!!!! The ‘old fools’ like Forest Mars, Frank Perdue, Stew Leonard, Sam Walton & J.Willard Marriott – real role models – got their focus right. Yes, they were concerned about the bottom line. But they also realised that the way to improve it was through customer centricity.

    Good article. Thanks.

  5. thcheong
    thcheong says:

    I think a leader needs not be equally adapt in in the five dimensions. It is a team effort and enpowering his other management members to do what they do best is a practical approach.

Comments are closed.