Have you ever defined your leadership brand? If you haven’t identified the attributes of your brand, now is the time. The process is simple but deliberate.
What is a personal brand?
A personal brand includes those attributes that make you who you are and how those around you expect you to act and behave in varied situations. If your closest friends were to describe you, what adjectives would they use? Appearance and gender are part of the descriptors, but attitudes, behaviors, how you respond and react to circumstances, how you communicate verbally and in writing and how you present yourself to others are also included. To understand what your brand is and reinvent your brand take the following steps.
Start by thoughtfully creating a list of these adjectives. This list will include descriptors like, shy, outgoing, quiet, thoughtful, energetic, aggressive, sweet, humble, funny, honest, formal, casual, smart, brilliant, plodding, resourceful. You get the idea. The list must include both the good and the bad descriptors. During this process, you must be brutally honest, not overly critical and, at this point, not judgmental.
After creating this list of descriptors, carefully evaluate each one. Ask yourself these two questions:
1. Is this descriptive word something I can change? An example is the adjective “tall.” Tall is a physical attribute you can do little about and must accept it as unchangeable. If the word is “shy,” you should mark it as changeable. Knowing this doesn’t mean you will want to change it, it only means this attribute can be changed.
2. Is this descriptive word a positive attribute or does it negatively harm your brand presence? For example, if you have the adjective “aggressive” written down you will likely note it as a negative attribute unless you are part of Mixed Martial Arts. If you have “trustworthy,” you should identify this adjective as positive unless you are a thief.
Next, look carefully at this list and ask yourself the following question, “Are there any attributes missing that I wish were used to describe me?” These attributes answer the proverbial question, “When I die what do I want them to say in my epitaph?” Write these added words to the bottom of your list.
Your list should now accurately portray who you are and who you’d like to become. Take all of the changeable adjectives and which you want to change and which you want to preserve based on what you want your brand to be. Those attributes you wish to change plus those you’d like to add are now your “project list.” Your strategy is to create an authentic leadership brand. To create your brand your “project list” is now converted into tactics for how you are going to purposely demonstrate these changing and added attributes in your personal and professional life. This effort is not easy work. Remember you have decades of practice at not doing these things right or at all. We’re talking about changing how you respond and react to circumstances in your life. This work is similar to the work of quitting smoking. When someone is working to stop smoking, they have to replace old habits with new habits. For example, a smoker may get in their car to drive to work, start the engine and light up a cigarette. They have to learn to replace or ignore this habit of lighting a cigarette. Every automatic response to every circumstance needs to be purposely and thoughtfully changed. The previously learned reflex response must be replaced by a new reflex. As I said, this is hard work that requires you to become very self-aware and purposeful in all of your actions and interactions.
To ensure your success enlist your friends, co-workers and maybe your boss on this journey. Share with them what you are working to accomplish and what attributes you are seeking to change and add. Solicit them to help keep you on track by alerting you, nicely of course, when they observe attitudes or behaviors that are not consistent with your new brand.
Also, to assure the success of this project, don’t seek to be perfect all the time. We are human and will make mistakes or even back-slide occasionally. Accept this as just a mistake and resolve to get back on track. Take note of the situation that caused an old reflex to re-surface and learn from it so when you are again faced with this situation or one similar to it you are prepared to be more thoughtful and purposeful in your response.
Establishing a leadership brand is an elemental step in being perceived as a leader in your company and your community. For most of us, it isn’t automatic; we have to continually work to build on our leadership attributes and thereby move slowly and purposely to becoming the person and leader we want to be remembered as; to have an authentic leadership brand.