What are you known for? What distinguishes you from others?
And why is that so important?
If such questions do not interest you, then you are a Zen Master, an “all round” not wanting to be defined by one thing, or securely ensconced in your profession.
But if you are
o Competing in the corporate world
o Wanting to succeed in service oriented professions
o Trying to get a job
o Looking for opportunities to express your giftedness or strengths.
Then here, one more time, is a blog on branding.
The title “My Brand Myself” puts front and center the importance of harmonizing our public persona with our core concept of who we are. For instance a person who is a rascal at home and a hero at the office eventually loses respect in the community. He/she has to use up a huge amount of psychic energy on impression management. But the brand based on personal authenticity is a powerful and refreshing phenomena. It is not a mask that one wears solely for one’s own benefit. It is a means through which others are served.
The cool thing about branding is that we have the power to decide who we are and what part of that self to present to the world. It’s not quite “the reinvent yourself over and over” motif in order to escape from a shameful past. It is the capacity to choose a compelling statement that carefully and creatively defines what we do or want for our lives.
So can you define your brand in a short but compelling statement that paints a picture of what you are passionate about? And is this statement something that adds value to others? Furthermore, is it memorable? And through the brand does your doing harmonize with your being?
My brand statement is “Inspiring leaders to inspire others”.
I consult with leaders to facilitate their doing many things from overcoming disabling behaviors, succeeding the boss, projecting an executive presence, making a major career transition, or leading their teams to new levels of success.
Unless they lead with inspiration all their efforts will be largely empty and not contribute significantly to the lives of others.
What is your brand statement?
And how will making such a statement bring focus to your life and align you with you authentic self?
Developing Your Leadership Brand
(Published 2 years ago)
In an earlier posting (December 18, 2010) I reflected on how your personal brand is a component of your executive presence. In part, that presence is the effective way you showcase your executive leadership abilities in your organization. It is how all perceive you to be a leader worth following.
Your brand, like your fingerprints, is that which sets you apart from other leaders and highlights your unique capabilities. It is also at the heart of your reputation, credibility, and ultimately, your perceived value to an organization.
Historically your brand may communicate information about you like,
“He’s the go-to person for strategy”
“She’s the engineer’s engineer”
“He’s the start up guru”
“You can count on her to lead innovation and change”
However, brand cannot always be defined with a few adjectives or just one marketing slogan. Each of the above statements could be one of many puzzle pieces that creates the ultimate brand picture.
I work with many leaders and ask them to answer the following questions in order to define their brand.
1. What do you understand to be your true self?
Who are you really?
There is no quick and easy answer to this question. It often takes a lifetime of introspection, feedback, heightened self-awareness, understanding of our self-delusion, and a focus on our being more than just our doing to reach some semblance of an answer.
In many ways the quest for the true self is a journey and not a destination.
But, in the end, this true self is at the heart of a brand. It is an amalgam of the best parts of a person’s character, his/her drive to develop unique qualities such as a strategic thinker or innovator, the lessons learned from failure, and a blend of distinct personality characteristics, like a risk taker, that differentiates them from others. It is as the leader experiences him/herself in multiple contexts, with a variety of challenges, and over a period of time that the brand begins to coalesce.
2. How do your personal and corporate brands align?
The harmony between your personal and the corporate brand often determines whether your uniqueness is embraced or rejected by your organization. Take the example of one corporate brand. Ulrich and Smallwood point out that leaders at McKinsey strive to live up to the corporate brand “The trusted advisor to every CEO.” In order for them to succeed in that organization they therefore have to “Lead teams that deconstruct business problems, synthesize data, and develop solutions”. So if that is what is expected of every leader at McKinsey, is that then a personal brand? The answer is, only in part.
The leaders have to have something more than this core leadership competency to set them apart from the others and therefore define their brand. So know your corporate brand and overlay it with the template of your personal brand. If the two sync up, well and good. Now go ahead and define your personal brand (the unique qualities you bring to the table) beyond but also including the corporate brand.
3. What do you want to be known for with your customers, investors, and colleagues?
This question defines the fit of your personal brand with your most important constituencies. Ultimately it is their needs that give the corporate and personal brand its meaning and relevance. So you may be as unique as Einstein at your company but if you don’t align with these constituencies your career is toast. So, for a start, are customer evaluations included in your regular evaluations? Does the way you behave as a leader receive the validation of your reports, peers, and bosses? Also, is your unique leadership brand appreciated and endorsed by these groups? If the answer is yes, then there is brand acceptance.
Another question you need to ask in relationship to your key constituents is that posed by Norm Smallwood in his HBR blog “What results do you want to achieve in the next year? (http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2010/03/define_your_personal_leadershi.html)
Smallwood writes “The first thing you should do is ask yourself, ‘In the next 12 months, what are the major results I want to deliver at work?’ Take into account the interests of these four groups:
- The organization”
4. What are your expectations around the value of your brand? This is an ultimate reality check.
A great personal brand is no guarantee that your company will retain you on its workforce, give you the promotion you desire, or reward you with a retention bonus. There is just too much fluidity in the current business climate, lack of leadership courage to make important changes, and political shenanigans floating around the office for your personal brand to always be validated. However, you future will continue with or without the validation of your present employer.
The preceding comment may seem too pessimistic but the fact is that established companies in crisis are losing their talented executives at a rapid rate. This is a topic I will address at a later date. However, developing your brand will pay off in a forward-looking company with brand clarity and healthy senior leadership.
5. Is there any danger that you will lose your authenticity in defining your brand?
One key piece of advice I give to people that I’m coaching on brand development is“Never compromise your true self in the pursuit of a brand.” For instance, you may be one of the best leaders of innovation and start-ups around. However you may find yourself in a company that has become so constricted that it takes a committee to change the lunchtime menu. So your decision is whether to stay and lead a transformation or go to where innovation is nurtured. The key here is “to thy own self be true”.
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