Assert Your Brand with Humility?

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Why do we even ask the question about a successful marriage between making our abilities known and humility?

Two reasons.

First, talking about one’s achievements or personal success solicits censure in some circles. Many believe that showcasing one’s perspective, product, or person is a sign of boastfulness, a lack modesty and narcissistic tendencies (sometimes they are but that’s another blog). The result of brand assertion is that,

“The tall blade of grass gets cut down.” 

The second reason is that, unless we define carefully who we are we can miss opportunities to get what we really want and make our greatest contribution. 

The negative press on brand assertion is deeply embedded in may societies and is shaped by faulty thinking.   Carl Jung said, “we are battered by the forces of our own psyche”. Each of these forces is shaped by,

  1. Cultural conditioning. In certain parts of the world the welfare of the group is more important than that of the individual. A person advocating strongly for his/her point of view or personal brand is believed to detract from the focus on the group.    Here individualism (equated with assertiveness) is seen as a personal deficit and is frowned upon. This cultural conditioning even extends to the different ways men and women are socialized in Western culture. While it is perfectly acceptable for a man to “toot his own horn” women do not want to be viewed as rising above others.
  2. Assertiveness Misinterpreted. It is fairly common for people to confuse brand assertion with aggressiveness. But the two are worlds apart. Aggression is rooted in the spirit of wanting to dominate or even hurt the other. Declaring one’s brand, in the best sense, comes from a deep desire to serve others to the best of one’s ability.  In a sense aggressiveness is like wrestling. Assertiveness like a dance.
  3. Humility Misconstrued. Somehow humility has been tarnished with the thought the person should apologize for him/herself, remain invisible, and not stand up and speak for themselves or their organization. I heard recently of an organization that lost a sale to a customer because they did not assert the value of their service/product.

The Solution

We need an antidote for the belief that personal brand definition and humility cannot coexist. In this fast-paced competitive world the imperative is “define your brand or die or be ignored”. So as a result, 

  • View the above three beliefs (and our resultant aggression) as the product of our conditioned thinking. So evaluate your self-assessments more carefully.
  • Be careful to distinguish between assertiveness and aggressive tendencies. As Pema Chodron said, “You have to want to lose your appetite for violence and aggression. And to do that, you have to lose your self-righteousness”.
  • Establish a new way of thinking where we give ourselves permission to state our views or advocate for our position or that of a cause/company.
  • Observe the old habit with patience and compassion. Don’t try to push the thoughts away or deny them because that makes them even stronger.
  • Be very clear to have a simple and compelling brand-statement. For instance one IT executive told me recently “I love to create applications that make my customers wildly successful”. You need to define what distinguishes you from others so that you can be deployed as the right person for the right job.

And guess what? Your world will not fall apart if you assert yourself. Many times when we are on the right track we get a lot of criticism. A brand statement makes it far easier to get what you envision for yourself.

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About cedricj

I am a licensed psychologist and management consultant and have always been intrigued by how leaders can inspire people in their organizations. The bottom line is that people are not always motivated by material rewards, the use of the carrot or the stick, fear and intimidation,and command and control, Five human needs inspire and drive us. Kristine S MacKain, Ph.D and myself describe these inspirational forces in our book "What Inspirational Leaders Do" (Kindle 2008)
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