What Constitutes a Leadership Brand?Article by Maynard Brusman, December 3, 2019
Formulate Your Personal Leadership Brand
Product branding is a familiar concept where product identity, reputation and differentiation are promoted. In an ideal world, a product’s image is established in positive ways, and the market is made aware of its presence. While it seems natural to brand products, leaders often don’t recognize how advantageously this principle can be applied to their careers.
A significant aspect of leadership success pertains to how the leader is perceived and accepted in their role. Favorable impressions are a huge part of the human experience, especially when applied to relationship-based activities such as leading people in an organizational setting. Positive impressions enhance a leader’s impact and offer more growth opportunities than neutral or negative impressions.
Leaders, while valuing the need to perform well and meet commitments, also benefit by establishing a solid personal brand. This allows them to make the most of their skills and potential as they advance their career path. There are several key areas that formulate your leadership brand and, when developed well, can take you to new heights.
What Constitutes a Leadership Brand?
When it comes to brands, products have much in common with leaders. A product stands on a brand that makes a mark for its value. That’s exactly what successful leaders do as well.
A strong reputation is the fundamental foundation. In part, your brand is what you’ve done, what you’re capable of doing and what you stand for. Consistent performance and accomplishment build great reputations.
A leadership brand establishes your voice, as described by Paul Larson in his book Find Your Voice as a Leader (Aviva Publishing, 2016). Leaders with a developed voice have a presence: a distinctive quality that makes them stand out.
Your brand creates a following. People want to be associated with the benefits that come with success. Leaders with a strong brand represent success, attraction and influence.
If you have a solid leadership brand, you fashion your influence in ways that create a lasting legacy. This maximizes your impact, not only while you are on board, but long after you’re gone. Does your brand have the potential of doing that?
The Building Block: Behavior
Leaders are primarily known for how they act, especially in tough and trying situations. This goes both positively and negatively. Leaders with strong personal brands have honed their personal skills to be reliable and trustworthy under pressure. This includes being calm, reasonable and poised.
Another aspect of strong brand behavior is genuineness. Leaders who demonstrate transparency and humility are trustworthy. Their brand stands out as a pleasant departure from a leadership norm that lacks these traits.
Similarly, a brand of refinement and integrity is admirable. If you are a leader known for doing the right thing, being responsible for your actions, taking the heat and issuing credit, then your brand will rise to the top.
Having confidence in your abilities, based on your competence and experience, is a great brand booster. People can see this in how you speak and carry yourself. However, if this carries over into overconfidence, pride or arrogance, your brand gets tarnished. A leadership style that is prepared, knowledgeable and teachable fashions a respected brand.
Leaders who are firm, but fair, earn high praise. People want the ability to do their jobs well, and understanding when conditions prevent it. Fair treatment, acknowledgment and reward are the benefits employees receive from strong leadership brands.
The Art of Appearance
Like products, leaders convey their brand through their appearance. The most immediate visual impact comes from being clean cut and well dressed. This shows an attention to detail and a sense of discipline, two traits that aid in competence, decision making and responsibility.
Leadership expert Dianna Booher, in her book Communicate Like a Leader: Connecting Strategically to Coach, Inspire, and Get Things Done (Berrett-Koehler, 2017), suggests body language is another brand-related factor. It shows in how you carry yourself and respond to the many stimuli around you. Staying in control of your emotions indicates internal strength and good self-awareness. This conveys a rational and subjective command of situations, boosting your leadership brand with the trust of your people behind you.
How you keep your office space also discloses your level of discipline and self-management. A disheveled desk implies disorganization and an inability to stay on top of things, while a perfectly sparkling desk may indicate you are underutilized.
Several personality traits are especially helpful for positive image building (besides being the right way to lead people). Leaders with a positive outlook, framed by good energy and passion, are greatly appreciated. They influence their people positively and inspire them to do their best work.
The Criticality of Communication
Communication is the lifeblood of every organization. Companies are handicapped by poor communication, and their brand is tarnished by underperformance. If a company’s brand is tarnished, so is the brand of the leader.
How a leader communicates reflects on their character and competence. Clear enunciation, authoritative delivery and considerate expression all help form a solid brand. In addition, communicating with emotional control and professionalism forges trust with those you lead. They feel secure, knowing they’re in good hands.
The best leadership communication is based on facts, not speculation. Speak knowledgably and objectively to gain credibility. Wishful emotion and baseless assumptions build an undesirable brand.
Good communicators explain things well: they speak in brief segments to avoid confusion, and summarize significant points. Ask questions to make sure your listeners grasp your message, and be open to questions from your audience. This conveys a desire to meet their needs and helps them participate in the dialogue.
Speaking skills need to transfer to large group sessions as well, according to Booher. Having a positive, authoritative presence builds an admirable brand. Your people are looking for hope and security in what you say, even if the news is difficult.
Relying on Relationships
Leadership is essentially the ability to achieve goals through effective relationships. Employees enjoy working for a leader who treats them like a partner, like an appreciated resource. This promotes a feeling of security.
Leaders with relational skills want to connect with and engage their people. This involves showing an interest in them, and seeking to understand their hopes and concerns. Asking questions and actively listening demonstrates interest in others and signals that their thoughts are worth knowing.
A key factor is to be approachable and reasonable. If your people know they can come to you and build on a relationship, they will trust you and value your leadership. When employees are comfortable and satisfied with their leader, there are no limits to what they can accomplish.
Inspire your people with a positive, empowering approach. Delegate as much authority as their level can accommodate. Celebrate their victories.
Dr. Maynard Brusman
Consulting Psychologist & Executive Coach
Trusted Leadership Advisor
Professional Certified Coach (PCC), International Coach Federation
Board Certified Coach (BCC)
San Francisco Bay Area
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