As leaders, we sometimes treat our leadership style as a product of our environment and corporate culture, rather than as a product of ourselves. Our leadership is a personal matter though, much of it stems from within and is influenced by things personal to us. Our experience, our ideas, our knowledge.
Understanding our personal leadership brand is an integral part of how we build consistency in our professional relationships and how we are perceived. Just as failed commitments and substandard interactions damage a corporate brand, our personal leadership brand suffers alike.
When establishing our brand we must first look to our experiences, good and bad. The leaders that we followed early in our careers, that mentored us, what was it about the way they acted that engendered our respect and loyalty? If you were unfortunate enough to work for a substandard leader, assess how you would have acted differently and why your way would have been better for the parties involved.
Once you have determined the key features of leaders that you respect think about what it is that you value in your relationship with others. For example, some leaders prefer to encourage an open dialogue, with everyone engaging with one another, others prefer to have 1-2-1 discussions, before amalgamating the input into a single decision. Both methods have their pros and cons, you need to think about which you are more comfortable running, what feels natural to you, to oversee a public forum or develop relationships through direct discussions.
Combining what your role requires with how you will deliver it for your stakeholders is the foundation of your brand. Just as our institutions change we should be ready to change too. To ensure consistency when you need to make new leadership brand decisions use your brand statement. This does not have to be written down, or even communicated to others, although you must know what it is. Whether it be something akin to Google’s “Don’t be evil” or something more complex like “To get the best from the people, tools and organisations I work with” a branding statement is your key to adapting to future changes.
The greatest failing for any kind of branding is for it to be inconsistently applied; so, once you have determined the mode in which your brand will operate its success or failure will depend on how it is applied . Imagine if Coca-Cola had different colour cans and fonts from shop to shop. Or if some Nike trainers had long division symbols instead of the Swoosh.
In the former example, loyalty to the brand becomes difficult. It is hard to patronise a brand if that brand keeps changing and presenting itself in different ways. In the latter example, you might suspect counterfeit trainers, leading to an increasing distrust in the brand, despite all the products being legitimate footwear.
Taking time to create our own leadership brands can sound like an egotistical exercise in navel-gazing. Loyalty and trust can be hard-won from some stakeholders, they are, however, essential for our success as leaders. Time spent building our personal leadership brands helps us to ensure we’re creating an environment where trust and loyalty can be developed and with those as your basis, success for you and your team will soon follow.
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