What is a Leadership Brand and why do we need it?
Put simply your Leadership Brand is what defines your style of leadership. It is so clear that others are able to identify your core beliefs, moral red lines and where your passion lies (what you are prepared to fight for). Often people ‘fall’ into leadership without giving thought to the kind of leader they aspire to be, leaving them vulnerable to switching from person A’s view of the world to person B’s view (a view of Trump if Wolff’s book is anything to go by). A leader that is so suggestable and volatile not only causes stress and uncertainty for those around them but may also lack the moral and ethical compass to guide them through difficult decisions.
What do you need to identify your Leadership Brand?
Up front and centre is self-awareness and personal insight to enable you to identify what your own values are. It is sometimes helpful to have an independent assessment of these as you may be too close to see your own blind spots. The Values in Action (VIA) character strengths offer a short free tool to identify your values (referred to in VIA as character strengths). Doing this may provide a good starter for ten. You can then pinpoint the top 3 to 5 values that will underpin your Leadership Brand, driving your decisions, choices and behaviours as a leader.
It is also important to consider your capability strengths, that is what you do well, what you enjoy, what gives you energy and what others see you excel at. Knowledge of these helps you to identify how you can deliver on your Leadership Brand and where you may need help from those around you. It will help you identify capability gaps and ensure you balance your choice of people you collaborate with to ensure you synergise everyone’s diverse capability to best effect (and avoid just working with people like yourself). Whilst most of us can identify some of our strengths you may wish to ask others what they see as your strengths. There are also a number of strengths tools around and here at MindSightUK we can provide a strengths profile based around 24 work based strengths if you prefer a more formal assessment.
Personality insight and preferences are also useful in understanding your impact on others so you can highlight where you may need to adapt in order to promote your Leadership Brand. I am not talking about being inauthentic to your own personality style here, but about recognising that we all have preferences in how we interact with the world and depending on the context our default way of behaving may not always be the most helpful. Successful leaders can adapt their approach to circumstances and other people to enable greater rapport, significantly improving the likelihood of achieving successful outcomes. There are many personality assessments around and organisations tend to have their favourites. At MindSightUK we use Insights Discovery and find it a powerful tool in helping leaders understand their impact (good and bad).
Taking all these elements together enables you to identify your core beliefs. For example, are you a person who values innovation, or courage, or development? Knowing your core beliefs can then help you define your Leadership Brand which you can then work into your brand statement.
Defining your Leadership Brand Statement
Your brand statement is a short one or two sentences which encompasses the essence of you as a leader. It can then be used when you are interviewing for a job, speaking to those you lead, explaining your approach to peers, potential suppliers, stakeholders and so on. But how do you decide what to include in your brand statement? A good start is to complete the following:
I want to be known for….
I want to be recognised as…
I want others to describe me as …
I want to feel proud of my….
A good brand will motivate and inspire you because it is authentic to you, it ignites your passion and keeps you focused on what matters – morally, ethically and professionally.
You will know you have got traction with your Leadership Brand statement when you can complete the sentence
I am a leader who….
Remember to revisit your statement in the weeks and months following your initial writing of your definition. Consider if you have got it right and if living up to your statement presents challenges, if so what can you do about it?
How will my Leadership Brand help me?
Armed with a good Leadership Brand you can start to make good decisions. As it is values and strengths based it will enable you to sort out ‘good’ from ‘bad’ choices. If something challenges your ability to live your brand you need to think whether it is worthy of your investment. A good Leadership Brand can help you make good career choices by questioning how a new role or career path will fit with and progress your brand. It is also worth considering if an organisations own values run counter to your brand and if so, would you be happy there?
Your brand gives you a benchmark to test your behaviour and choices against. Are you truly living your brand in your current role? What value does your brand bring to your current role? Are there any aspects of your current role that do not align with your brand? Such reflections lead to greater insight and focus. Because your brand is based on your values and strengths you will have both the passion and the capability to bring about changes to things that do not align with your brand. In short your brand gives you energy, courage and passion to create the world around you that you desire.
If my brand is authentic it should be easy to maintain – shouldn’t it?
Oh if this was the case we would all be riding high on the crest of a brand wave. Unfortunately, circumstances, other people and our own humanity can often get in the way of us truly living our brand. We are often our own brand saboteurs. Consider how you respond to mistakes? If your brand is to be honest and open, the first major cock-up may lead you to cover up due to embarrassment, fear of reprisals or shame. If this is the case you have just sabotaged your brand. If you support innovation and yet your need for control, rather than enabling you to let others explore, be curious and try new things may instead lead to your ‘telling’ them how to do things. Demanding your process is followed to the letter can lead to demotivated rather than innovative, inspired followers. If your brand is going to survive the trials of day-to-day living you need to consider when and where it may be challenged and using your self-awareness of your own behaviour develop strategies to stop you scuppering it yourself.
Will others be able to see my brand?
An excellent question. A better question is to ask though is ‘how will others see my brand?’ This gets to the heart of things. It is not what you say but what you do that matters. Our true feelings are betrayed by our behaviours, reactions, body language and micro expressions. Micro-expressions are small, momentary, barely noticeable changes in expressions which leak our true feelings. As human beings we are attuned to pick up on others emotions even if we are not sure why, we just have a hunch if someone is being authentic or not. One way we do this is by noticing an incongruence between what is said, vocal tone and body language, another way is subconsciously done by reading each other’s micro expressions then subconsciously copying them, which leads us to then start to feel what the other person feels. This process is what gives us that sense that something is amiss. Studies by Paul Ekman into facial expressions suggest that universally we can recognise 6 basic expressions in others - happiness, sadness, anger, fear, disgust and surprise, so it is important that we are aware our feelings may be apparent to others even if we think we are hiding them. By being authentic to our brand it therefore follows that others will be able to pick up on it in how we express ourselves as well as what we say or do.
How do I bring my brand to life?
This is at the core of landing your brand. Look at your role and your profession and ask yourself, if I am living my brand:
What will I do and not do in my role?
What will others see and hear?
How will I approach my tasks?
How will I respond to mistakes and failures?
How will I respond to setbacks?
How does my brand fit with my role?
What do I need to stop, start and continue doing to be true to my brand?
What additional training, coaching, insight and support do I need to fulfil my brand potential?
Hopefully this article has given you some pointers to developing your own Leadership Brand. I am also including a MindMap of the key elements as a memory jogger. Feel free to use and share the MindMap as long as you retain the MindSightUK logo and copyright statement. Good luck in developing your own Leadership Brand and I look forward to hearing from you how it has helped you.
*Ekman, P., Sorenson, E.R. and Friesen, W.V. (1969). Pan-cultural elements in the facial displays of emotion. Science, 164, 86–88.