Leadership Branding

Leadership Branding: Perception is Reality!

Your leadership brand is not how you see yourself... It's how others see you. What does your brand stand for, and what would you like it to stand for?

Not unlike any product, you too are a brand, and how you behave impacts how others perceive and respond to that brand. Here are 4 steps to becoming the leader you aspire to becoming.


Step 1. Assess Leadership Brand

Understanding the current situation (PEST, SWOT, 5C's etc.) is the first step in strategic planning. Likewise, the first step in developing any leadership brand, is to understand what the brand currently stands for in the eyes of those around you. This is where the brand assessment comes in.

Leaders who have been living in a vacuum might find this somewhat intimidating, as the brand assessment involves asking those on the receiving end of the his or her behaviour (managers, direct reports, peers etc.) for feedback.

At this stage it is important that the leader be gracious; not judge the feedback but welcome it as an opportunity to become a more effective leader. Here are 5 key questions that leaders need to ask those around them:

  • What am I doing well, that you would like me to do more of?
  • Can you give me some specific examples of what I am doing well?
  • What am I doing not so well, that you would like me to do differently?
  • Can you give me some specific examples of what I should be doing differently?
  • What are the 3 most important attributes a leader in my position should possess?

Once you have collated all the responses, look for any patterns of behaviour to determine if there are any specific positive or negative behaviours that you are displaying. Then in one sentence, summarise what your brand currently stands for. It should look something like this:

"I'm a determined and resourceful leader who has a bad habit of talking over the top of others and not listening to their opinions and views etc."

Now ask yourself... Is this what you want your leadership brand to stand for?


Step 2. Define Leadership Brand

Now that you know what your leadership brand currently stands for, it's time to decide what you actually want it to stand for. Herein lies the trap that many leaders fall for, as they randomly select a handful of attributes from a list that sound 'leader like'.

Your leadership brand is a promise, its a promise of what positive behaviours those around you can expect to see demonstrated consistently. With this in mind, it is important that you select attributes that you truly value. Equally important, you need to define what those attributes actually mean and how they should be demonstrated.

  1. Select 3-4 attributes you truly value and craft them into a brand statement. Here's an example of a brand statement:
    1. "I aspire to becoming a 'Results-Oriented' leader who values 'Integrity', 'Courage' and 'Accountability'."

  2. Define what each attribute means to you. Here's an example of what the attributes might look like:
    1. Result-Orientated: The ability to establish, maintain and increase standards of performance for oneself and others.
    2. Integrity: The ability to adhere to job-related, organisational and ethical norms in all aspects of work.
    3. Courage: The ability to take calculated risks, confront adversity or not shy away from uncertainty.
    4. Accountability: The ability to acknowledge and assume responsibility for actions, decisions and behaviours.

  3. Define 3-5 actions / behaviours for each attribute. Here's an example of what the list might look like for Result-Oriented:
    1. Set and maintain high expectations for self and the team, and carefully review and check the accuracy of work.
    2. Display a keen interest in getting things done, and have a sense of urgency about getting work completed.
    3. Verify information and set up procedures to ensure high quality of work.

If you want to really gain support from those around you, ask them for suggestions on what you can do to effectively demonstrate each attribute. 


Step 3. Communicate Leadership Brand

At the beginning of this article we said that your leadership brand is not how you see yourself, but it is how others see you. Unfortunately, changing the perception people have of you does not happen over night, and takes time and effort.

Why is it important that you communicate your leadership brand? This is a question that leaders often ask, to which the answer is quite simple... If people around you do not know what you are aspiring to, how can they provide you with feedback on how you are performing?

There are various ways you can communicate your leadership brand, by I prefer face to face as it is more genuine. Here's an example of how one of those chats might look like:

"Hi there. As you are someone who's opinion I really value, I wanted to share my leadership brand with you, so that I could get your feedback on it. Is that ok with you?"

"I aspire to becoming a 'Results-Oriented' leader who values 'Integrity', 'Courage' and 'Accountability'. I am going to demonstrate this by doing a, b, c, d etc."

Could you give me a couple suggestions on what other things I could do to live up to my leadership brand?" 

The objective of communicating your leadership brand is to manage expectations and let people know that you are trying to become a more effective leader.


Step 4. Live Leadership Brand

Whilst this article can help you define your leadership brand, it’s ultimately up to you to make your brand a reality. It's up to you to demonstrate the courage, humility and discipline needed.

There will be times when you slip back into old habits. With this in mind I strongly encourage you to arrange regular checkins with those around you to find out how you are going. These checkins could take the form of a regular meeting or an informal chat. Here's an example of how one of those chats might look like:

"Hi there. As you know, I aspire to becoming a 'Results-Oriented' leader who values 'Integrity', 'Courage' and 'Accountability'. Could you give me a couple examples of what I am doing well, and a couple examples of what I could do better?"

Once again, it's important that you be gracious; do not judge the feedback but welcome it as an opportunity to become a more effective leader.


There you have it... Four simple steps to becoming the leader you aspire to becoming. 

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