Just recently there has been a lot of media coverage on the topic of leadership branding. By definition this means the distinctives that define a person.
Some leaders are very conscious of their personal brand, others do little to deliberately cultivate a brand, and others just don’t care. Whichever of these three approaches is taken, every leader has a brand.
It is often said about leadership, that ‘self-awareness’ is foundational for enhanced effectiveness. This isn’t just self-awareness in terms of strengths, biases and development needs. This needs to be a holistic awareness.
How others see you, how others hear you and how others create their own images of you are all important factors when considering personal brand. What I would add at this point, is that personal branding isn’t all about ‘others’. The saying, ‘you can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time’, is indeed true. Your own brand shouldn’t only be the sum of the feedback you get – I think that would result in something close to schizophrenia!
Every leader needs clarity on who they are, how they accentuate this, and what this means for them.
I have a friend who majors on the physical appearance side of personal brand. What you wear, how you cut your hair, personal hygiene, your make-up, your poise, etc. This is a critical part of developing a personal brand. My friend also explores how people communicate and how they project themselves. They key lesson to all of these elements, is that leaders have a choice as to how they develop their brand. You can change your wardrobe, you can intentionally behave differently, you can raise your consciousness of self-control, and you can learn from great role models.
Personal brand also has a lot to do with the gravitas and charisma of the leader. Are they known for their expertise, their passion, or their creativity? Often these characteristics can supersede the physical side of personal brand. I can think of quite a few examples.
When a leader is developing their career and their presence, personal branding needs to be high on the agenda. To start with, leaders need credibility. A brand with no substance is like the Emperor’s new clothes – most people see right through you! So start by building a track record of success, gain a ‘fan base’ of people who acknowledge your achievements, and invest in your own self-development. It may be a parallel activity as you build your career, but try to consider the distinctives you would like to be known for. Are you an entrepreneur, a great networker, an expert in your field, a futurist, a great team builder, and so on? It is always helpful to get feedback from others at this stage. What do they see in you that stands out?
Having considered the many aspects of creating a personal brand, always consider this. Your brand can, and sometimes must change! You may need to re-invent yourself, or you may need to upgrade aspects of your brand because you realize you could do better, or you might just need to evolve with years. Whatever your personal brand as a leader, remember that it impacts those around you, your reputation and ultimately your success!