Understanding and strengthening your leadership identity is the first real step in embracing the innovation mentality. And that starts with the question every leader must ask and keep asking: What is my leadership identity?
This may seem like an easy question to answer, but most leaders I’ve met have trouble with it, because they have very little experience answering it. You may understand that your leadership identity defines who you influence and how you influence business evolution, but what defines your leadership identity? The answer: your personal brand and its value proposition (what your personal brand solves for).
So defining your leadership identity starts by defining your personal brand. You can’t turn around your business until you turn around yourself. Understanding who you are and what you solve for is how your leadership will define the evolution of the business in the new normal.
The concept of personal branding -- the idea that success comes from how you authentically present and market yourself and your career as an individual -- has been around for 20 years or so, but the workplace hasn’t encouraged us to develop our personal brands, let alone live them and use them. Thus, a lot of leaders talk about personal branding, but few connect it to leadership in this way and thus hold themselves accountable to it to evolve.
The importance of a personal connection to leadership -- of touching the business every day -- 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.
Your people want to know where they fit and where they can best contribute to their organization and the reinvention process. They want to be part of a workplace that allows them to be their natural, authentic selves. Only then will they become custodians of the workplace culture and become more accountable to it, driving that authenticity into being more intimate with your clients and customers and seizing new marketplace opportunities.
To do this, people need leaders with strong identities that provide clarity and understanding for what their leadership solves for -- leaders who have a strong identity that supports their personal reinvention efforts to be more purposeful, responsible and accountable in how they lead and influence others.
Leadership is about the desire to be significant, not just successful, which is what the innovation mentality stands for. You just need to be courageous and vulnerable enough to take action and be your most authentic self in everything you do to understand people and what their brands represent and solves. Do that and your leadership identity will have incredible influence in driving change through your people.
Your personal brand value proposition
What opportunity gaps does your brand solve for? When leaders lack the understanding of what the answer to this question is, they’re unable to effectively strengthen their own personal brands, let alone the personal brands of those they serve. More important, when you can’t respond to this question with 100 percent belief and clarity, it’s impossible to consistently lead with an approach that fosters evolution over substitution.
So now, it’s your turn. Answer the following four questions:
- What is unique about the way you think?
- What gives you distinction as a leader?
- What impact do others expect from your presence?
- What type of solutions do you consistently deliver?
Keep your answers to four words or fewer if possible, and remember there are no wrong answers. Write them down. As you do, keep in mind that the categories and questions are sequential, and each of them builds on one another. They tell the story of your personal brand value proposition. This sequence and story is essential to understanding who and what you serve, what others can expect from your leadership, what your personal brand value proposition is and solves for and how your leadership identity influences the business. Don’t just say these words; realize this power.