Guest post by Randy Hall, founder and principal of 4th Gear Consulting.

Businesses, no matter their size, depend on the success of their brand for sustainability and growth. The collective view of customers about the company and their products or services largely determines whether they buy from that company or simply take their business elsewhere.

The brand is often considered the most valuable asset a business can have. And when you think about the loss of revenue for companies who allow their brand to be tarnished, it’s difficult to disagree.

Companies, such as BP, know they have their work cut out for them to rebuild the brand. Companies, such as Enron, destroyed their brand so thoroughly they can’t even survive.

But a company’s brand is not just about the cool new ad campaign or your killer PR firm. At its core, the brand of a company is about the leaders within it. In the case of BP, we don’t know all of the details, but at some level, decisions that led to the explosion and oil leak were made by its leaders. In the case of Enron, the corruption and dishonesty of the leaders destroyed the entire company.

The people who make up any organization and, more specifically, those charged with leading it, are also charged with caring for the brand itself.

The brand of the company is the result of the collective brands of the leaders within it. A solid brand can survive a challenging economy, fierce competition, and abrupt market shifts, but it can’t survive poor leadership.

Each of us has the ability to create and build our own brand as a leader. Over time, people will either gravitate toward our brand or move away from it.

Our ability to lead others directly depends on the brand we create and whether or not it is aligned with the goals and beliefs of those we are leading. It’s been said that if you think you are leading but no one is following, you’re just taking a walk.

Many leaders today believe that leadership is about how much power or authority you have. And there is no question that nice perks can come with power. What is often forgotten is that no matter how much power people have, they only get to keep it if they become an effective leader, as well. Taking care of your personal leadership brand is essential if you want to build any level of sustainable success.

Much like a business brand, your leadership brand, while created by you, lives in the experience that you are able to create for others. Simply put, are they better off after interacting with you?

Businesses with great brands focus on the quality of their customers’ experience. As leaders, we have to maintain the same kind of focus on the people that choose to follow us.

And make no mistake; even employees make that choice one way or the other, regardless of the fact that they get a paycheck. You simply can’t buy engagement, commitment, or loyalty, even when you buy an employee’s time.

People make a decision to follow much like they make a decision to buy. They want to deal with leaders that bring them value, make their lives better, and help them achieve their own goals and dreams. As leaders, there is no more accurate assessment of our ability to lead than our leadership brand, as others perceive it.

Successful companies build and guard their brand carefully. As leaders, we need to do the same thing. Our ability to lead a business or a team is completely dependent on their belief that we can.

How are you building your leadership brand?

Randy Hall is founder and president of 4th Gear Consulting. After two decades in the corporate world, he now helps businesses of all sizes shift their culture and develop their leaders.