What’s Your Leadership Brand?
How You Get Results Defines Your Value as a Leader
Chances are, you spend at least some time thinking about your reputation at work.
You may wonder how a recent initiative you led influenced how colleagues think of you, or worry if your boss considers a recent mistake part of a larger issue you struggle with. You may fret about whether your direct reports look up to you as a leader. But have you ever thought about your personal leadership brand?
What’s a Personal Leadership Brand?
Among your community of family and friends, you have a reputation — a personal brand that reflects your priorities, the values you stand for, the offerings or promises you consistently deliver, and how you go about delivering them.
At work, your leadership brand is how your personal brand plays out in the social process of leadership. In other words, it’s how you interact with others to produce results.
While the sum of your previous interactions and experiences with other people may all be in the past, the personal leadership brand you aspire to should guide you into the future. It’s all about who you are and who you want to be.
Why Your Leadership Brand Matters
Your personal leadership brand illustrates not only what you deliver but also how you deliver it, and should be an authentic representation of what you aspire to and cherish. Chances are, if you aren’t thinking about it, your leadership brand isn’t closely aligned with what you want it to say about you.
A well-tended leadership brand is a reflection of your deepest values, and it helps people — including yourself — define who you are and assess your anticipated value as a leader. You should consciously and authentically shape your leadership brand for the following reasons:
- A powerful leadership brand can enhance your ability to achieve your career goals. Whether you aspire to a higher-level position or want different challenges than you currently have, you need a leadership brand that signals your capabilities and interests. 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. Remember that your persona comes through in virtual interactions, as well.
- 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. This is why authentic self-promotion is key. 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 leadership 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 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. It might not happen immediately, but if you aren’t being true to yourself and your values, colleagues will notice eventually. And it doesn’t feel comfortable for your thoughts and actions to be incongruent, so if who you are and what you stand for is not valued in your organization, find another place to be.
How to Strengthen Your Personal Leadership Brand
You may recognize that a personal leadership brand is important, but you’re not sure how others perceive you or how to tap into the skills you need to be more influential. The following 6 steps will help increase your self-awareness, define the competencies you need, and strengthen your personal leadership brand.
1. Make 2 lists.
List everything that you love about the work you’re doing, and make another list about all of the things you’d prefer not to be doing. This sort of clarity will help inform your professional goals and the decisions you make toward realizing them.
Part of tending to your leadership brand is a constant process of self-evaluation and building your self-awareness.
2. Audit your online presence.
Check your digital and social media footprint. This will often be someone’s first impression of your leadership brand, and you want to be sure the image you present meshes with your desired brand. Look for examples of other people who do this well and emulate them by creating a website, contributing to a company or trade newsletter, or joining social groups on LinkedIn or other platforms.
3. Choose an accountability partner.
Pick someone who will give you the truth about what other people think about you. They can also help hold you to your other goals for improving your leadership brand. Incorporate feedback from others, whether it’s your boss, friends, significant other, or colleagues. Does what they say about how others view you align with your desired projection? Ask your accountability partner what you can do more of or less of to be more effective.
4. Create a tagline.
If you summarized your unique leadership contribution, what would your tagline be? Think of an image and a catchphrase that depicts the core of your leadership brand. Gather feedback — from your accountability partner or others — and adjust as needed. Once it’s ready, post your tagline and symbol somewhere you can easily reference it as a regular reminder to yourself.
5. Design an action plan.
Once you’ve figured out the gap between your current leadership brand and the one you desire, develop an action plan to improve on your weaknesses. A plan will help you build new competencies, solicit help where appropriate, and assess your progress.
And be patient! If you’ve figured out that your leadership brand isn’t working for you and you try to change it too rapidly, the shift will appear disingenuous. Colleagues will view radical changes with suspicion. Authentic change takes time.
6. Ask yourself key questions.
What do I value, and do my values still reflect who I am? What am I known for? Am I doing everything I can to build my leadership brand? Returning to these guiding questions regularly will help you determine if you’re on the right track and ensure your behaviors are supporting your values and goals. (Learn more about identifying your values and setting goals that align with them.)
As you ask yourself key questions and design an action plan, take some time to consider the core leadership skills you need in every role: self-awareness, learning agility, influence, and communication. Consider ways to strengthen these 4 core skills, because in doing so, you’ll also be building your leadership brand.
How to Know If Your Personal Leadership Brand Is Working
When you consistently integrate these tips into your personal analysis and your work with others, you’ll start to see signs that your efforts are paying off.
You may have to turn down invites to work on various initiatives because you’re getting pulled in several directions. You may notice that you’re being asked to take on assignments you enjoy. You may find that colleagues are complimenting you on aspects of your work that align with your leadership brand.
These are all signs of progress, and chances are, your boss or other leaders in your organization are taking note of your leadership brand, as well.
Even without considerable external confirmation, this is about an authentic transformation that emanates from your core identity. As you grow and advance within your organization, you’ll find your leadership brand evolves, as well. Our guidebook, Leadership Brand: Deliver on Your Promise, gives additional tips for evolving your leadership brand throughout your career.
If you follow these short- and long-term steps, regularly reevaluate your progress, and put in additional effort, your personal leadership brand will evolve and start paying dividends.
Ready to Take the Next Step?
Our robust leadership training program, Lead 4 Success,® will help you build your personal leadership brand by strengthening the “Fundamental 4” leadership skills — self-awareness, learning agility, influence, and communication — that you, as a leader, need to be successful. Or, upskill your team with a customized learning journey for your leaders using our research-backed modules. Available leadership topics include Authentic Leadership, Emotional Intelligence, Influencing, Self-Awareness, and more.