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 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.

Consider the role of a highly experienced professional — what we call a “hi-pro.” These individual contributors play critical roles as engineers, designers, medical professionals, marketing or logistics experts, and so on. They’re expected to take on project-management roles or be key players on cross-functional teams.

If you are a hi-pro, you can’t rely on your subject-matter expertise to get the job done. You also need to be a leader if you are going to influence others, work as a team, and get results.

Similarly, high potentials need to develop leadership skills alongside their professional skills. While you’re going after the experiences needed to take on larger roles and pursue the management track, you should also be building your skill and reputation as a leader.

So, what does it take to create a leadership brand that boosts both your career and your organization?

Follow these tips that we share with participants in our Leadership Fundamentals course for individual contributors:

Infographic: 4 Tips to Create a Leadership Brand

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 living 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.

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