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, or fret about whether your direct reports look up to you as a leader. But have you ever thought about your leadership brand?
Your leadership brand is the reputation you have for how you interact with others to get work done. It is the sum of your previous interactions and experiences with other people — it may all be in the past. But what is the leadership brand you aspire to that you can craft in the present, to guide you into the future? It’s all about who you are and who you want to be.
Your leadership brand illustrates not only what you deliver but also how, 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 aligned with what you want it to say about you.
So show yourself a little self-love by taking these immediate and longer-term steps to enhance your leadership brand.
3 Immediate Steps to Start Strengthening Your Leadership Brand
- 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 towards realizing them.
- Audit yourself. Check your online 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, or take it a step further and build a digital footprint by creating a website, contributing to a company or trade newsletter, or joining social groups that exist on LinkedIn and other platforms.
- Find 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.
Now that you have the groundwork out of the way, you’re ready to make longer, sustained overhauls to your leadership brand. Remember — it is aspirational, but it isn’t a destination. You’ll need to regularly revisit and reevaluate it.
3 Longer-Term Tools to Shape Your Leadership Brand
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 brand beyond the workplace? Returning to these guiding questions regularly will help you determine if you’re on the right track.
When It’s Working…
If you’re showing your leadership brand some love and following these short and long-term tips, you’ll start to see signs that your efforts are paying off. If you have to turn down invites to work on various initiatives because there are too many, or if you’re getting work that you love to do regardless of whether you’re being promoted, those are good signs your leadership brand is stronger.
There will be other signs, too. If you ask yourself the key questions and the responses are what they should be, or if your accountability partner tells you that you’re hitting your targets, you can pat yourself on the back.
If your reputation improves and colleagues compliment you on aspects of your work that align with your leadership brand, you’re making progress. Maybe your boss or other leaders in your organization are taking note as well.
But even without considerable external confirmation, this is about an authentic transformation that emanates from your core identity rather than some cosmetic window dressing. If you follow these short and long-term steps, regularly reevaluating your progress and putting in additional effort, your leadership brand will evolve and start paying dividends.