What’s your personal leadership brand? At first blush, it might seem like an odd question. What does branding have to do with leadership?
As it turns out, everything.
Brands differentiate themselves from competitors in ways that are relevant and important to their target audiences. They exist to influence others, whether it’s to encourage purchases, generate support, increase membership, etc. Leaders seek to influence those they lead to devote their talents, passion, and energy to accomplish worthwhile – and even visionary – goals.
Branding isn’t optional. Our perception of certain brands influences our decisions to interact – or not – with them. We also have perceptions about individuals that define their personal brand in our minds and hearts — and they have similar perceptions of us. The question isn’t whether we personify a brand or a set of attributes. We do. It’s whether we’re being intentional in determining what our brand stands for, what we’re known for, and whether it adds or detracts from our ability to lead as effectively as possible.
Leaders with character, competence, and trust are essential. Former Disney CEO Michael Eisner said, “A brand is a living entity – and it is enriched or undermined cumulatively over time, the product of a thousand small gestures.”
Leadership seminars, books, and articles typically focus on competencies like business skills, strategy, communication, structure, results, bias for action, innovation, and so on – which are all essential. But great leaders exhibit character in addition to competence. That combination leads to trust, which is the essential element in creating positive and lasting change. Leaders who influence through position, money, authority – or worse, fear – lack the moral authority to truly capture willing minds and hearts, at least for the long term. By contrast, we gravitate to, and give our best efforts to, leaders who have the integrity, moral force, courage, emotional intelligence, compassion, and ability to authentically connect with others. Or, in other words, leaders who demonstrate character and competence. Leaders we trust.
Which brings us back to developing an intentional and consistent personal brand. To create your own brand, ask yourself these questions: What's your essence, your DNA, your special and authentic quality as a leader? What do you stand for? What do you want to be known for versus what you’re currently known for? What are your values and are they evident to others? What are your most prominent personality traits and how do they manifest themselves? How do those you lead and hope to influence benefit functionally and emotionally because of your leadership? Are your actions and communications consistent with your desired brand, or are there gaps, or even fatal flaws, you need to address?
To sincerely ask those questions takes some serious and honest soul-searching – and requires candid feedback from others. But as you make those efforts, you’ll begin to intentionally create a personal leadership brand of confidence and trust. And the greater the trust, the greater your influence.
Just as great organizations very deliberately determine what they do, what they stand for, and how they act, effective leaders can and should do the same.
More than ever, with confidence declining in healthcare and virtually all our bedrock institutions, we need leaders with character and competence who create personal brands we can trust.