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You probably already have a personal leadership brand. But do you have the right one?
The question is not trivial. A leadership brand conveys your identity and distinctiveness as a leader. It communicates the value you offer. If you have the wrong leadership brand for the position you have, or the position you want, then your work is not having the impact it could. A strong personal leadership brand allows all that’s powerful and effective about your leadership to become known to your colleagues, enabling you to generate maximum value.
What’s more, choosing a leadership brand can help give you focus. When you clearly identify what you want to be known for, it is easier to let go of the tasks and projects that do not let you deliver on that brand. Instead, you can concentrate on the activities that do.
So how do you build a leadership brand? My co-author Dave Ulrich and I came up with these five steps.
1. What results do you want to achieve in the next year?
The first thing you should do is ask yourself, “In the next 12 months, what are the major results I want to deliver at work?” Take into account the interests of these four groups:
- The organization
Dave and I once worked with a very talented and hardworking executive we’ll call Tricia. Her successful performance in several varied roles at her organization — she’d been an auditor, a process engineer and a customer-service manager — earned her a promotion into a general manager position, charging her with running one of the company’s largest businesses. To succeed at her first large-scale leadership position and meet the complex set of expectations she would encounter in it, she knew she needed to become more deliberate about the way she led others. In short, she knew she needed a new leadership brand, and asked us for help in forging it.
We advised Tricia to begin by focusing on the expectations of those she was working to serve, rather than on what she identified as her personal strengths. Leadership brand is outward focused; it is about delivering results. While identifying innate strengths is an important part of defining your leadership brand, the starting point is clarifying what is expected of you.
2. What do you wish to be known for?
Tricia knew she was seen as technically proficient and hardworking, but somewhat aloof. These traits, she realized, added up to a leadership brand that would not take her very far in her new role.
With that in mind, Tricia picked six descriptors that balanced the qualities that came naturally to her with those that would be critical in her new position. She then tested her choices by sharing them with her boss, her peers, and some of her most trusted subordinates. She simply asked them, “Are these the traits that someone in this general manager role should exhibit?” Their responses helped her refine her list to ultimately include the following traits:
3. Define your identity
The next step is to combine these six words into three two-word phrases that reflect your desired identity. This exercise allows you to build a deeper, more complex description: not only what you want to be known for, but how you will probably have to act to get there. For example, calmly driven differs from tirelessly driven. Experimenting with the many combinations that you can make from your six chosen words helps you crystallize your personal leadership brand.
Tricia combined the six descriptors into the following three phrases:
- Independently innovative
- Deliberately collaborative
- Strategically results-oriented
She tested this with several colleagues, neatly pulled together what came easily to Tricia (“independently innovative” and “strategically results-oriented”) with what she could accomplish through disciplined effort (“deliberately collaborative”). Tricia was satisfied that it aptly described both the kind of leader she was and the kind of leader she was becoming.
4. Construct your leadership brand statement, then test it.
In this step, you pull everything together in a leadership brand statement that makes a “so that” connection between what you want to be known for (Steps 2 and 3) and your desired results (Step 1). Fill in the blanks:
“I want to be known for being ______________ so that I can deliver __________.”
Tricia’s leadership brand statement read: “I want to be known for being independently innovative, deliberately collaborative and strategically results-oriented so that I can deliver superior financial outcomes for my business.”
With your leadership brand statement drafted, ask the following three questions to see if it needs to be refined:
- Is this the brand identity that best represents who I am and what I can do?
- Is this brand identity something that creates value in the eyes of my organization and key stakeholders?
- What risks am I taking by exhibiting this brand? Can I live this brand?
After going through this exercise, Tricia was satisfied that she had crafted a personal leadership brand that was appropriate for her new role and within her power to live and make real.
5. Make your brand identity real
Espoused-but-unlived brands create cynicism because they promise what they do not deliver. To ensure that the leadership brand you advertise is embodied in your day-to-day work, check in with those around you. Do they see you as you wish to be seen? If you say you are flexible and approachable, do others find you so?
After Tricia defined her personal leadership brand, she shared it with others. She let people know that she was evolving as a leader and invited their feedback, especially on her efforts at working collaboratively.
The exercise of forging a leadership brand and the day-to-day discipline of making it real, Tricia said, helped her stay focused on the most important challenges of her new role.
To be sure, your leadership brand isn’t static; it should evolve in response to the different expectations you face at different times in your career. In our work, we have seen that leaders with the self-awareness and drive to evolve their leadership brands are more likely to be successful over the long term — and to enjoy the journey more.
Norm Smallwood is co-founder of The RBL Group, a strategic HR and leadership systems advisory firm. He is author, with Dave Ulrich and Kate Sweetman, of the 2009 Harvard Business Press title, The Leadership Code: Five Rules to Lead By and with Dave Ulrich on the 2007 title, Leadership Brand: Developing Customer-Focused Leaders to Drive Performance and Build Lasting Value (Harvard Business School Press, 2007).
- What results do you want to achieve in the next year? ...
- What do you wish to be known for? ...
- Define your identity. ...
- Construct your leadership brand statement, then test it. ...
- Make your brand identity real.
Articulating and cultivating your personal leadership brand is the proactive way to work and lead in ways that are authentic, not based on the expectations of others. If you're trying to be someone that you aren't, people will see through it.
Examples of corporate leadership brands include Google (technology leadership), Apple (innovative leadership) and American Express (global leadership). 2. Articulate your personal brand – focus on descriptors and traits that come naturally to you and that are critical to your role.
Your personal brand statement has to be strong, descriptive, short, and catchy all at the same time. Some examples include: “I help individuals reassess their life choices to discover their true paths to success.” “I develop sustainable business models and marketing strategies to fuel small business growth.”
Your personal brand refers to how you present yourself, your skills, your experience, and your career goals to other professionals. It's what distinguishes you from the rest of the pack on the job market.
A leadership brand conveys your identity and distinctiveness as a leader. It communicates the value you offer. If you have the wrong leadership brand for the position you have, or the position you want, then your work is not having the impact it could.
Personal brands are especially beneficial for freelancers, artists, content creators, and similar roles. It provides a personality for their body-of-work. If you're one of them, you can use branding as an advantage in many situations that are related to your career and lifestyle.
Your personal brand is your unique combination of skills and experiences that make you who you are, and what others will recognize you for. It is your views, your ideas and your way of doing things, so effective personal branding should differentiate you from other professionals in your field.
Personal branding is the process by which we unearth what makes us special and then communicate that branding message to the proper audience. If you want to succeed in the workplace, you need a well-defined personal brand that supports your company's mission.
Personal branding can help you control the narrative about yourself and introduce yourself in the best light possible. It's also a way to stand out from the competition. In a world where everyone has a website and an online presence, personal branding can help you make yours stand out from the rest.
A personal brand statement is 1-3 sentences that explain what you do and why you are unique in your field. It sums up your experience, your skills, and your passion so that people can easily understand who you are and what you offer.
It's about who you are and what you do. Your personal brand is how you present yourself, both online and offline, to your ideal audience. As a sales manager, you interact with existing clients and potential customers. To broaden your funnel, a personal brand can support you in growing your career.
A company with favorable leadership brand inspires faith that employees and managers will consistently make good on their brand promises to customers. It also embeds those promises into the company's culture and integrates them into its policies and expectations of employees.