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Brain circuits

Does your leadership style encourage customer-centricity?

Published 14 February 2022 in Brain circuits • 3 min read

Many companies cite customer satisfaction as one of their great motivations, yet still fail to foster the right relationship with those they are trying to serve. A factor they tend to overlook is the company culture they have created. Organizational culture plays a big part in whether you are able to put customers at the center of your business or not. And it all starts with the tone and approach you create with your leadership.

You can find three specific leadership qualities in truly customer-centric companies. Consider each quality and figure out where you and the rest of your leadership team rate with each of these.


This is the ability to really connect by understanding others, cognitively, emotionally, and behaviorally. It is a quintessential leadership quality and the prerequisite to forming genuine bonds. Being understood comes from trying to understand first. Building bonds bridges starts with your colleagues and team members. When empathy becomes “second nature”, it becomes easy to relate to customers in a deeper way. When you make sure your team is valued and feels safe, they are more likely to take care of the customers the same way. In a nutshell, focusing on colleagues is an effective way of focusing on customers.


Philosophers identify humility as meta-virtue and the basis for other virtues such as forgiveness, courage, wisdom, and compassion. Humility is the quality of having a modest view of one’s own importance. This quality lets you grow and learn. Humble leaders are highly self-aware and at the same time have a low self focus. They know that others matter as much, or even more. They have the tendency to look past oneself and seek the bigger truth. Being curious and coachable, humble people seek new perspectives from customers and colleagues and are willing to learn and adjust.


Courage translates imagination into reality. We define courage as the willingness to take risks and try new things. This also encompasses a willingness to deal with and learn from unexpected outcomes. This leadership quality is fed by the previous two. With strong bonds and a supportive team, are you able to have the courage to venture out and try innovative concepts that can serve your customers in new and better ways?


Katharina Lange

Affiliate Professor of Leadership

Katharina Lange is Affiliate Professor of Leadership at IMD. She specializes in self-leadership and cross-cultural team leadership in times of change. Before joining IMD, Katharina led the Office of Executive Development at Singapore Management University (SMU, where she directed Open Programs such as ALPINE (Asia Leaders Program in Infrastructure) and the J&J Hospital Management Program. She is Co-Program Director of the Leading Customer – Centric Strategies and IMD’s signature Orchestrating Winning Performance (OWP) program.


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