The topic of Personal Brand has become well-known in the business world in the last years. I have been an advocate for the idea of using marketing principles to create intentional exchanges with others that matter. When I was at TD Williamson, I presented this topic at a Sales Conference, titled: ‘The Power of Your Personal Brand’ My content and delivery granted me many invitations to speak in front of many more professional audiences throughout the company.
I believe having a personal brand is a success differentiator for a leader. A leader is effective in the degree that others grant them the credibility and personal authority to lead. We could argue that having a personal brand and managing it effectively is about consistently creating positive impressions that lead to having a solid reputation.
As a Leadership Coach, I notice some leaders resisting the idea of having a brand. “I don’t like to brag about myself,” some say. This is understandable to the extent that we are raised believing that self-promotion is undesirable behavior. But the truth is that we already have brands because others already forming impressions about us even when we are not aware of them. Those leaders that take control over their brands are more predictable and trusted when they deliver on their promises and their discourses and actions are in alignment. The opposite lead to many surprises. I see it when delivering 360 assessments to leaders who discover many blind spots and they look surprised when others don’t perceive them the way they see themselves for the most part. This dissonance offers a leader an opportunity to awake to the idea of taking responsibility for their image by creating an intention about how they want to be perceived.
This is why you need a leadership brand. Then you can become intentional and take charge of your career. You can also increase your impact coming from a place of authenticity using your voice and your actions to earn the respect and trust of your teams, stakeholders, clients, and everybody.
In her book, “The Leader’s Edge”, Susan Hodgkinson asserts that solid brands allow leaders to drive performance and profit. She uses the 5P’s to describe her model. I am providing the definitions using my own words and some tips extracted from her great book, which is a treat to read. Implementing these five components will open many doors of opportunities in your professional life.
Persona is the foundation of your brand. Paraphrasing Susan Hodgkinson, “Persona is the emotional connection and reaction that you elicit in others as a result of your energy, attitude, style, and worldview”. Encompasses the four competencies in Emotional Intelligence: Self-awareness, self-regulation, social awareness, and relationship management. Here are some considerations.
- Be aware of the feeling tone you are projecting. Emotions are contagious.
- How are others feeling after interacting with you? Notice their non-verbal.
- Be mindful of the impact you create on others. What verbal feedback are you getting?
- Ask for feedback and be willing to act upon it. Be forward-looking.
Product is the sum of your skills, capabilities, expertise, track record of results delivered over time that have brought you where you are. Your technical skills become less relevant as you progress in the organization from individual contributor, to a manager, to a leader. If you want your product to matter, you need to become more strategic by using your expertise to create value as a functional expert. Consider the following:
- Continue growing your skillset in areas that matter. Stay abreast.
- Remain relevant to your market needs. Continue to add value.
- Find your strengths in the convergence between your persona and your product.
In marketing lingo, the package is the wrapping of a product. Similarly, your packing is your physical image and how others notice your appearance. You can look professional and well-groomed even for your virtual meetings when working from home. Packaging is also about how you speak, how you present your ideas, and how you communicate to different audiences in person or while using technology. For example:
- Pay attention to your attire. Do you fit with your tribe?
- Be mindful of your written and oral messages. Be professional.
- Even when online, is your physical space representing you well?
Promotion is another marketing term that is very relevant when it comes to your leadership brand. Women are more reluctant than men to let others know about their contributions. Sally Helgesen describes many examples in her book “How Women Rise”. She lists two habits that hold women leaders back: Reluctance to claim your achievements, and expecting others to spontaneously notice and reward your contributions. As a leader, you can be strategic to decide who needs to know about you and your work and your team’s accomplishments. Here are some promotional tips:
- Share your unique ideas and viewpoints to add value. You will get noticed.
- Create opportunities for others to know you and your team.
- Be intentional about creating messages that match your audiences.
Your self-image and how you perceive your value will impact the degree to which you permit yourself to shine. Self-doubts and other self-defeating behaviors will keep you contained as a leader. You don’t need permission from others to shine unless you give your power away. The Impostor Syndrome hinders your effectiveness as a leader and wakens your brand. How to deal with the inner voices that make you doubt yourself?
- Know that you are a member and not a guest in your organization.
- Know your value, make an inventory of your accomplishments.
- Deliver your results to continue strengthening your reputation.
- Create a ‘permitting mindset’ to be willing to have a seat at the table.
As with anything leadership-related, everything starts with you, the human being. Leading yourself is not just a catchy phrase. It is the realization that when you gain greater clarity about who you are and your value, your impact will increase. Be willing to notice how others perceive you. Managing your brand is about creating positive interactions with others that will lead you to a solid reputation. There is no doubt in my mind that your leadership brand is a key success differentiator and will allow you for more impact and better business results.