Managing your leadership career is much like managing your stock portfolio. You must continuously decide on how to make your personal brand more valuable by knowing what skill-sets, capabilities and aptitudes to invest in and which not to – throughout the course of your career. The ebbs and flows of your leadership career require you to make important choices about how to give your personal brand value; equally, you must be aware of how your personal brand translates into and delivers tangible and measureable ROI to those whom you serve. Every day, every week, and every month – you must be mindful about how your personal brand as a leader can elevate your relevancy, impact and influence – and it’s your responsibility to define its distinction before someone else does.
Have you ever thought of your leadership as a responsibility that goes well beyond the job title and job description you are being held accountable to? Leadership in today’s brave new workplace means different things than it ever did before. It’s no longer just about the one who is in-charge, one’s hierarchy or rank, or whether or not one has a good relationship with the boss. Leadership in the 21st century must consistently deliver on many levels, based on these three things:
1. Value to the people and partners you serve (i.e., employees, customers, vendors, etc.)
• Strengthen the influence of others to accelerate their success
2. Be a master problem solver (i.e., proactively address challenges head-on)
• Continuously renew and reinvent best practices to avoid the cycle of complacency
3. Create and sustain the right opportunities for your organization (i.e., see what others don’t see)
• Assure the organization is always moving forward – and building momentum along the way.
I’ve learned that this type of leader is rare; they represent less than 15% of the leaders that have developed their personal brands, according to research by my organization. They are the ones that know their personal brand must be managed like a trademark and they are focused on building the assets of their intellectual capital to leverage what makes them distinctly different from other leaders.
However, I’ve also learned that there are many leaders that want to be more like this type of leader but are made to believe that their influence is limited by their own boss. They waste their talents waiting for permission, rather than taking initiative and allowing risk to be their best friend. I’ve always said that your leadership performance and reputation should not be penalized if you are genuinely making an effort to deliver real value to people and positively impact the bottom line. If you are being penalized for your good intentions – you are with the wrong organization, one that has a serious leadership problem.
The brave new workplace demands brave new leadership. The goal is to establish individual distinction but also distinction as a team by collectively determining the right formula to work in concert with one another. If not, the organization’s leadership distinction is not being optimally leveraged and most effectively utilized. Besides, if the leadership team can’t complete this exercise to find the right formula for distinction – then what does this mean for the people they are responsible to lead? This explains why organizational silos form quickly and it is also the reason many companies are having trouble reinventing themselves. When an organization’s leadership is out of sync, it begins to permeate throughout the organization, causing unnecessary business disruption.
What is your leadership distinction? How do the ways in which you naturally think, act and innovate make you uniquely different from other leaders in your organization and your industry? How does your personal brand as a leader effectively solve for your organization’s most pressing needs?
Unfortunately, many leaders have a difficult time answering these questions (when they should be able to at a moment’s notice) because they have gotten lost in the demands of business necessity. If they don’t take the time to step back and define their distinction, it becomes impossible to develop their personal brand as a leader. As such, it becomes a greater challenge to gain control of their leadership reputation and what others can consistently expect from their leadership. The longer they wait to establish their leadership distinction, the more likely others will define it for them.
For example, how many times have you been part of a team at work where you don’t feel comfortable with all of the members on the team? What happens? Do you go with the flow and get caught in the trap of being someone that you’re not – or do you seize the opportunity to enable your leadership distinction? Begin to lead by example and you’ll get discovered by those in your organization who may not have known or valued your distinction in the past.
Being on a team or in a meeting is like being on a job interview – as you are continually being evaluated by your peers. If you can’t showcase what gives your leadership distinction, then you are not managing your personal brand as a leader. Consequently, your value as a leader begins to diminish and your executive presence in the organization begins to lose its impact. You lose influence as people begin to stop taking you seriously.
As you continue your leadership journey, become more mindful than ever before about the following differences between “personal branding” and “executive presence.” The more you are aware of these differences, the faster you will begin to understand the extreme responsibility you have to develop your personal brand as a leader and the importance of establishing your leadership distinction – and keeping it in proper alignment with how others perceive it to be.
Your Personal Brand is:
• What others expect from your leadership.
• When others know what you expect from them.
• What represents the standards for performance responsibility and accountability.
Your Executive Presence is:
• How others perceive your leadership.
• How you carry your leadership amongst others.
• How responsible you are with your leadership impact and influence.
Perhaps we are beginning to understand the critical role personal branding plays in our leadership success and eventual significance. Personal branding gives you distinction, and your executive presence is how you express that distinction. This is why you must think of your leadership not in terms of your job title and job description, but as a responsibility that goes far beyond that. Leadership is a career-long journey in which your ability to see and choose the right opportunities – for yourself, those you lead and the organization you serve – will translate into your best legacy-defining moments.