After working with dozens of leaders, there are several key themes that emerge reaffirming the need that every leader, from aspiring to experienced, needs to build an intentional personal brand.
“The time to build your brand is not when you need it, by then it is way too late.”
Your reputation is like an entry ticket, it allows you to participate, or it can hold you back. Individuals that have clarity on who they are, their why, and how they want to show up, can make decisions in every interaction that shape the perception of their various audiences. Remember, perception is reality, so however amazing you think you are, 90% of your personal brand is defined by those that observe and interact with you. Here are four critical insights to help leaders develop their personal brand.
1. Know Yourself
This is one of the most powerful journeys you can be on, to know yourself. The more clarity you have about who you are, the impact you want to make, and what expertise you have to bring to bear, the easier it is to communicate authentically and intentionally. Do you have mastery of an area yet? In the book, Relevance, the formula for Relevance is = (Empathy + Authenticity +Mastery²) X (Action). If you have the ability to be authentic and put yourself in someone else’s shoes, leveraging a skill along with taking action, then you can increase your relevance and matter more.
Next step: What three things are you good at right now? Do you leverage those skills in your work? If not, how could you start to do so?
2. Credibility is Key
A personal brand is about creating evidence that you know what you are talking about and it is a pre-requisite before people will follow you. How do you build your credibility? Let’s say one of your areas of expertise is “setting a vision and building a team to deliver it” – how do you share your insights inside of your company or even externally? One way to build credibility is to deliver results, however, think about who else could benefit from your expertise and where could you share it? Without bragging, one way could be to do a Lunch N’ Learn with leaders and give a small talk then open it to a discussion. Externally, you could share your experience at a change management conference or leadership event. Remember, no one else is going to do this for you. Next step: Think about what feels doable, what feels comfortable to you.
3. Stand for Something, or You Will Fall for Anything.
Many people believe they do not need a personal brand because they are not trying to disrupt the market or be the next Oprah, Malala, Elon Musk, Obama, or Jack Ma. However, the reality is that you have a personal brand – whether you manage it or not is a different question. If you have a perspective or a point of view, on a project, a business goal, how to lead a team, etc. – then you need a personal brand to help you influence the outcome you want. What are you taking a stand for (or against), what is the legacy you are leaving? Whether you help one person or one billion people, what impact are you making with your point of view?Next step: Who do you aspire to be like? Identify other thought leaders in the space that you are trying to be known in – find inspiration, just remember to be your own kind of leader. Find your own point of view.
4. Write Down Your Values & What Success Looks Like For You
Part of being authentic is to define what values are critical and where you will not compromise. Jack Ma is known for his perseverance, for hiring the right talent, and for enjoying life. Read more of his keys to success here. What would you write down that matters to you? What does success look like on your terms? Understanding your values is important, it informs your decision making, and for entrepreneurs, it becomes the foundation of your business.
Next step: Define success on your teams – from abiding by your values to finding work / life integration or giving back to the community. You get to decide what success means to you, not what society says it should look like for you.