A desire to be known for who you are now and who you want to be in the future is normal — and it’s something that people may struggle with at any career stage.
But to land the projects and grow your career in ways that matter to you, it’s important to pay attention to your brand as a leader, according to CCL’s David Horth, Lynn Miller, and Portia Mount, co-authors of the new book Leadership Brand: Deliver on Your Promise.
Your brand reflects your priorities, the values you stand for, the offerings or promises you consistently deliver and how you go about delivering them. Your leadership brand is how your brand plays out in the social process of leadership — how you work with others to produce results.
Many people don’t think about their brand, or they believe it is not something they need to actively manage. Here are 5 reasons why you should consciously and authentically shape your leadership brand:
- A powerful leadership brand can enhance your ability to achieve your career goals. Whether you aspire to a higher-level position, transition from individual contributor to project manager or people manager, or want different challenges than you currently have, you need a leadership brand that signals your capability and interest. As you become more respected and appreciated for your leadership contributions, you gain more opportunity and experience, which then reinforces the brand that supports your aspirations.
- Your leadership brand can help you broaden and deepen your impact. Your brand reflects not only the work you get done, but how you interact with and relate to others to do so. Do you work effectively with others? Do you build and sustain partnerships? Do you and your team achieve the 3 crucial outcomes of leadership: direction, alignment and commitment? The way you engage in the social process of leadership helps you to execute or scale work and creates a leadership brand that others will likely remember and talk about.
- Your leadership brand differentiates you from other leaders based on your own unique value. When you have a clear leadership brand, people know what to expect from you versus others on the team. Maybe you are uniquely able to organize complex projects, mediate disagreements or develop others. When people think about your brand, those talents should immediately come to mind. You will then be pulled into roles where those talents are valued — and given more and more opportunities to do the type of work you like.
- A fuzzy leadership brand — or one you don’t want — will stall your growth and keep you in roles where you don’t thrive. Without a clear and well-communicated leadership brand, others may be unaware of your capabilities, your value, and the contributions you make. You may end up working in a vacuum, unseen and unheard by your boss, key stakeholders, and even your peers. Promotions and interesting assignments are likely to pass you by. You could even end up derailing your career.
- Managing your brand is a powerful way to be authentic and a true agent for yourself. Realizing what you want your brand to be gives focus to your actions. It helps you clarify what you should be doing — and what not to do. Articulating and cultivating your brand is the proactive way to work and lead in ways that are authentic, not based on the expectations of others. If who you are and what you stand for is not valued in your organization, you need to find another place to be.
Managing your leadership brand goes hand-in-hand with self-awareness and the choices you make to develop over your career — essential components of our work at CCL for decades. While your leadership brand takes time to build and pay off, here are some steps you can take right away:
- Find a trusted “truth teller” — someone who will be honest about what others say about you when you are not in the room — to get a reality check on yourself.
- Think about your values, what matters most to you. Then analyze whether you are being true to those values in your work life.
- List all the things you really love about the work you do and all the things you would prefer not to be doing. How can you present yourself in ways that tout what you love and lead to more of it?
- Ask yourself: What impact am I having and how might I improve? Are my actions clearly aligned with my career goals? Am I visible and known for what I am good at and like to do?
- Audit your online brand. Does your online presence support the leadership brand you want to cultivate?
- Evolve your leadership brand throughout your career. As your career evolves, so should your brand. Review your brand once a year or during important career transition points (i.e. a promotion or special assignment). Continue to ask yourself these questions: What do I value, and do my values still reflect who I am? What am I known for? How do I want to be known? Am I doing everything I can to build my brand beyond the workplace?
- Work through the exercises in the book, Leadership Brand: Deliver on Your Promise. The book helps you explore the brand you want to have and develop an action plan to make it happen.
Leadership brand goes well beyond superficial image and how you look, sound, or speak. It stretches past your individual knowledge and skill. It involves unlocking those personal qualities that impact how you interact with others to achieve shared alignment, direction, and commitment. Without managing your leadership brand, you drift along — when you manage it, you become the leader you want to be.