What is your leadership brand?
If you were to choose any product or service brand that most reflects who you are, your values, your desired reputation, then which one are you?
Perhaps you’ve never considered yourself a brand. But by doing so, you start to think about your professional reputation and whether it is helping you successfully influence and lead others or not.
In the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world in which you now live, work and influence, now more than ever before, instilling confidence and engaging others is the only way to bring people along with you, whether “leadership” is in your job description or not.
What matters is defining what you want other people to think about you, and how you build and maintain your brand and reputation intentionally. On any given day, you will find a story in the business press about a leader in trouble because he or she made poor decisions from which they could not recover. In nearly every case, their derailment was not due to lacking technical knowledge about their industry or functional area, but because they did not successfully engage their stakeholders.
So what can you do that builds your reputation so other people want to follow you? Here are a few simple steps:
Step 1. Be clear what brand you want to be and why.
You’ve read the many articles and books on “authenticity” – which is another way of saying “be true true to your values” as you’ll otherwise soon be found out. So write them down and think about how you bring them to life. Like any brand, you are offering a promise that people will buy a specific set of values that are distinct and memorable versus the others in the market.
Step 2. Define your market.
Decide who you need to successfully influence and why. The best way is to identify the 5-7 people in your world – inside and outside your organisation – who play a key role in influencing your success and career. How might each of them describe you after a meeting? Would you find these pictures of you consistent, surprising, reaffirming?
Step 3. Tell your brand story well.
Now you know who needs influencing and why, you need to know the “how.” And there’s no better way than storytelling since humans are wired to tell and remember stories (certainly more than an Excel spreadsheet… do you remember the last one you saw in a meeting?). Consider creating your Leadership Lifeline, a grid with your age along the horizontal axis, and a score from -10 to +10 along the vertical with the horizontal intersecting at zero. Plot a few highlights and lowlights over the course of your personal and professional life that you wish to reveal about who you are. This narrative is in your hands, so you decide what you want to tell and what you keep back. Practicing telling this “life story” means you get to reveal your values, be relatable and show where you needed resilience. All of which means you are telling people what your brand is all about.
As we find our trust sometimes misplaced in business leaders and brands that have over-promised and under-delivered, helping you win and keep the trust of others will determine your professional fate.
Defining your brand means you make it easier to be an influencer that others want to follow. And in today’s business climate, we could all do with higher quality influencers.