4 Questions To Help Leaders Define Their Brand

Leaders who understand their personal brand can answer these four questions about their brand's value proposition – in just a few words.
4 Questions To Help Leaders Define Their Brand
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Whatever you think of our President-elect, Donald Trump has spent his lifetime building and constantly selling his brand, shaping it to the needs of his marketplace be they investors, a TV audience or voters. He is a master of personal branding.

That said Trump’s rise actually pre-dates the concept of personal branding—the idea that success comes from how you present and market yourself and your career as an individual—which dates back to 1997. Since then, a lot of leaders have talked about personal branding, but few connect it to their leadership to evolve into what they and the people they represent want and need them to be.

According to my organization’s research, fewer than 15% of leaders have defined their personal brand, and only 5% are living it every day. And if you can’t define your personal brand then how can you expect to know its value proposition (what your personal brand solves for)?

Over the course of four months in 2015, I interviewed three-dozen senior executives, and not one could clearly or succinctly answer what opportunities their personal brand solves for, and only 25% of those executives provided answers that were close to being strong responses. And when leaders lack this clarity and understanding of what their brand solves for, they are unable to effectively strengthen their own personal brands, let alone the personal brands of those they serve.

Your personal brand should represent the value you are able to consistently deliver to those whom you are serving. This doesn’t mean self-promotion – that you should be creating awareness for your brand by showcasing your achievements and success stories. What I didn’t tell you about my research I mentioned before is that 70% of professionals believe they have defined their personal brand and 50% believe they are living it. But when you peel back the onion so to speak and ask them to define it you realize that their focus was centered on self-promotion rather than a commitment to advance themselves by serving others.

Your personal brand is the total experience of someone having a relationship with who you are and what you represent as an individual and as a leader. Ask yourself and then ask close friends: What is the total experience of having a relationship with you like?  Write down the top 5 things you would expect others to experience and have your close friend do the same. Are the answers the same or similar in meaning? If they are, good for you! If not, you have some work to do.

Leaders who understand their personal brand can also answer these four questions about what that brand solves for – its value proposition – in just a few words. Can you?

  1. What is unique about the way I think?
  2. What gives me distinction as a leader?
  3. What impact do others expect from my presence?
  4. What type of solutions do I consistently deliver?

In 2017, I challenge you to answer these questions. Challenge you to think about what this means and what your personal brand is capable of solving for and thus delivering to the communities you are serving – both in and outside of the workplace. Much like social media, this is about making a full-time commitment to the journey of defining yourself as a leader and how this will shape the manner in which you will serve others.

Think about this yourself as it relates to your leadership: Are your differences clearly understood? The importance of your personal brand value proposition’s connection to leadership today cannot be understated, as it defines your leadership identity and your ability to value differences and enable the full potential of others: your team, your clients and yourself.

Remember: Managing your personal brand requires you to be a great role model, mentor and/or a voice that others can depend upon. For example, when I write, I am extremely mindful that my community of readers expect specific “experience of thought” from me. I also aim to attract new readers by offering something of value that will hopefully engage them enough to continue reading my work. Sound like a lot of pressure and a tremendous responsibility? It is . . . at first. But over time the responsibility becomes natural and instinctive.

This is the mindset you must develop and the level of accountability you must assume when deciding to define, live and manage your personal brand. Every day you know you must deliver to a standard of expectation that you have set forth for both yourself and those whom you serve. View your personal brand as a trademark; an asset that you must protect while continuously molding and shaping it. Manage it with the intention of helping others benefit from having a relationship with you and/or by being associated with your work and the industry you serve.

If your people don’t know what your personal brand is, the fault is yours and not theirs for not understanding what defines you as a leader and what that leadership solves for. Which is why those who define and live their personal brands will more naturally demonstrate an executive presence and as such may find themselves advancing more quickly at work.

Personal branding is no longer an option. It’s a powerful leadership enabler.

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