Great Leaders Build Their Own Unique Brand
What does being a great leader mean to you? Before you answer this question, think about any leader you know and try to describe him or her in your mind.
What do you say about Donald Trump? Or Bill Gates? Or Oprah Winfrey? Or Warren Buffet? Or Steve Jobs? Or Mahatma Gandhi? Or Mother Teresa? They each have a brand of their own. When you speak their name aloud, you draw a definite picture in the mind of the listener; a picture that describes that person’s strengths, charisma, gifts, and beliefs.
This is what leadership brand means. All great leaders, whether consciously or not, build their own personal and unique brand. There are no exceptions to this rule. You may or may not identify or like their brand, yet all exceptional leaders have one.
Building a personal leadership brand is not a competency that is often talked about, and it is not part of a capability discussed during performance reviews. It is more than having leadership presence, it conveys your identity and distinctiveness as a leader. It communicates the value you offer.
Why Is Building a Personal Brand Important?
When you build a personal brand as a leader, you are broadcasting larger than life message — this message is, “I know who I am”. A strong personal leadership brand communicates to your colleagues and leaders what makes you effective which in turn creates value in their eyes.
This is the real acid test for leadership — leaders are able to translate their beliefs into actions with the full conviction that they can do whatever they put their mind to. The benefits of developing a personal unique brand are many but here are the top four.
- You attract the best possible platforms for work. Businesses are always looking for people who can lead. What better proof that you know yourself as a leader than projecting your own unique brand image?
- You can attract the best talent to work with you. When you are recognized as an outstanding leader, highly talented people feel privileged to work with you. You can have your pick from among the best brains in your field.
- Your innovations / products would enjoy a head start. Whatever you do is considered top quality, unless proved otherwise. When your brand is recognized the market is more eager to embrace you and you gain a huge advantage over your competition.
- The wrong leadership brand can reduce your impact. If you have the wrong leadership brand for the position you have, or the position you want, or maybe event the company you work for, then your work will not have the impact it could. Knowing and creating the leadership brand that aligns with the opportunities you want eliminates this possibility.
How Do You Build a Leadership Brand?
Since your brand is about who you are and the value that you generate, you start with what you wish to be known for. You might be technically proficient in your position or people recognize that you have a wealth of historical corporate information, but what else do you want people to think about you?
One way to start the process is to come up with a list of adjectives that you want to have others use when they think of you. Often I have clients ask 5-10 people in their professional life to come up with a list of 5-10 adjectives they would use to describe them. You’d want to include colleagues, staff, senior leadership, your boss…those you interface with regularly.
The advantage of asking others is that you will be able to determine if there are patterns, and if these are the words you want people to use when they think of you. If hardworking or tenacious, for instance, are on many lists, are those the words you want to hear? Are words such as collaborative or strategic or results-driven words you want but don’t show up on the lists? It provides you a baseline from which to work and ideas to begin the process of defining what you want to be known for. Your goal is to have five to seven words at the end of the process.
The next step is to consider what results you want to achieve in the next twelve to eighteen months. Consider all groups including employees, customers, senior leadership, and the organization as a whole. Because a leadership brand is outward focused, it is about delivering results that are seen as adding value, knowing what those results are for your various constituencies is important.
Now take the results you want to achieve, combine with the words and put into a couple of phrases or sentences that reflect your desired identity. For example: If one of the results you want to achieve is to improve customer satisfaction (however you are going to measure that) and one of your words is deliberate, think of how you would combine that goal with the word.
Finally, you have to live your brand, not just talk about it. You have to ask others how they are seeing you. Just because you think you are collaborative does not mean others see you the same way. You have to check in with others around you. And you have to check in regularly with those you ask to determine if anything has changed. If they didn’t see you as collaborative, has this changed since the last time you asked?
Building a leadership brand is not a requirement, unless you have career aspirations beyond your current position. If you do it’s worth the time to build your brand. Be thoughtful about what you want your brand to say about you and then create a plan to get there.
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© 2017 Incedo Group, LLC