Personal branding is serious business.
Ever since the publication of Tom Peters’ “The Brand Called You” in Fast Company, personal branding has gone from a radical idea to a career basic.
But how much thought have you given to building your personal leadership brand?
Plenty of people build a professional brand and create a digital identity, but few take a clear-eyed look at their leadership brand. People in individual contributor roles are especially likely to overlook their leadership brand.
Your leadership brand is created by the ways you behave, react, and interact. And it’s linked to your effectiveness. 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 personal 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.
5 Reasons to Care About Your Leadership Brand
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.
So, what does it take to create a personal leadership brand that boosts both your career and your organization?
How to Create a Leadership Brand
Follow these tips that we share with participants in our Leadership Fundamentals course for individual contributors:
1. Think “process,” not “position.” Leadership is a process, not a title. It’s about working with others in ways that establish direction, create alignment, and build commitment.
Rather than looking for someone else to be a leader, individual contributors need to ask themselves: “What am I bringing to the leadership process?” as well as, “How do I fit into the process of effective leadership in my group or in my project team?”
2. Understand your brand. Like it or not, you already have a leadership brand. You have a reputation based on how you get things done and how you interact with others.
To leverage your leadership brand or to steer it in a different direction, you need to get a clear picture of how others perceive you today. Start paying attention to how you work — not just what you know or what you accomplish. How do you learn? How do you share information, make decisions, and influence others? How do you build and nurture relationships?
Just by paying attention to these questions, you’ll gain some insight. You’ll also want to check in with peers, a mentor and your boss — or seek out opportunities for formal feedback or a leadership development program — to gain a better picture of your leadership brand.
3. Take control. You’re in charge of your leadership brand, so invest in your learning and development as a leader. Your boss or your organization won’t tell you exactly what’s needed or hand you the tools and experiences that will boost your effectiveness.
Take time to think about your current job and future career. How does your leadership brand support your work today? What would happen if you could be more effective? How could leadership help get you there? What do you need to learn or change in order to improve your leadership skills and hone your leadership brand?
4. Live your leadership brand. Your employer needs you to be as effective as you can be. Your co-workers do, too.
But investing in yourself as a leader brings benefits to you as well. It can improve your job satisfaction and open the door to new opportunities, both now and in the future.
Experienced managers and seasoned professionals tell us they wish they had developed fundamental leadership skills much earlier in their careers. With the shifting, unpredictable economic and employment landscape, creating and strengthening your leadership brand is more important than ever.
Leadership Fundamentals: Not Just for Managers
If you’re a skilled expert or ambitious top performer, don’t ignore your role as a leader. Leadership development isn’t only for people with “manager” titles.
Individual contributors need leadership skills to work effectively on project teams, to succeed in larger or more complex assignments and to meet strategic objectives.
Our Leadership Fundamentals program is a powerful, 2-day course that will increase your ability to:
- Develop a new perspective on the process of leadership and how you can lead in your current role.
- Understand different learning styles and use this information to improve communication and relate to others.
- Improve your interpersonal savvy and influencing skills.
- Identify and nurture key relationships to be more effective in current and future roles.
- Hone your personal leadership brand.
- Create and begin working on your personal development plan.
Learn more about our Leadership Fundamentals program.