Creating a personal brand is not solely reserved for online influencers looking to promote their expertise or sell products. You may already have the beginnings of a personal brand—your reputation at work. But a reputation is a reflection of how people see you. Building a personal brand means being purposeful in shaping the perception others have of you.
Having a reputation for being detail-oriented could be holding you back from your goals. People may want to put you in a support role reviewing things rather than being the one who creates them. But if you make that attribute part of a brand, showing how your attention to detail helps others and raises the quality of your work, it becomes something that people look up to and emulate rather than take advantage of. This is where leadership branding takes personal branding one step further.
Don’t confuse your leadership brand with status. You do not have to be a member of a leadership team to have a leadership brand. You could be the most junior person in an organization but still benefit from a leadership brand. Everyone leads in their work. Think about how you get people to listen to your ideas. How do you work as part of a team? These considerations can serve as the basis for defining what you stand for as a leader.
Defining where you want to go
Just like a traditional brand, a personal brand is built on a vision or mission. Think about what you want to achieve in the next year. This needs to be more than “I want to get promoted.” Think about what you want your work to achieve. Is it improved customer service, is it employee retention on your team, is it gaining users of the application you’re developing, or is it launching a new public education program?
With a concrete goal in mind, you can set that as your mission statement and then develop the values that will get you there. Let’s take “launching a new public education program” as an example. What do you need to do? You need to coordinate multiple subject matter experts to put together the content and you need to be creative with the promotion of the program. These are significant leadership attributes that any organization would value.
Reflecting on where you came from
More than just being a collection of attributes, good brands tell a story. Apple’s brand story is that of a scrappy garage-based company that wanted to change the way we lived and worked. It’s now known for its intuitive technology as it has grown into a leading innovator that is omnipresent in our lives. What’s your story? Where did you start? What were some of your successes and your greatest failures? What did you learn from both?
While you’re never going to corner someone at the office and tell them this story, you need to tell it to yourself. Your path informs your next steps. Knowing what you enjoy about your job and what you do well helps inform decisions about what projects to take on and what you need to delegate. Boil your story down to a tagline, like Nike’s Just Do It, and use it as a reminder as to how you want others to see you.
Leadership brand impacts extend beyond your work
Having a clear understanding of your brand helps people work with you more effectively. If you have consistent interaction with people, both senior and junior, they will feel more comfortable working with you. Your expectations will be clear and can drive others to improve. For example, if people know you value error-free communications, they will pay closer attention to their grammar and language in messages to you and to those you’re cc’d on.
Leadership brands give you clarity as to where you can make a difference in your organization. It enables you to retain a focus on what matters, ensuring an authentic interaction with colleagues and constituents alike.