Last week, I conducted a “Lunch ‘n Learn” session on personal branding to a real estate investment company and had a great conversation about personal branding as it relates to those at the VP and above level. The question had to do with how personal branding can help those in leadership positions “take it to the next level.”
My answer? Personal branding is extremely important at the executive levels because it is critical for leaders to convey what their leadership brand is. I have conducted personal branding exploratories with those at the executive level for this very purpose. Usually, someone reaches an executive level because they have core competencies in a certain area; however, leadership requires a whole different skill set. Leaders are not “doing” the work anymore…they are coordinating getting the work done. They must learn how to inspire others to do the work, and for that, they need a strong personal brand.
I presented seven principles of personal branding and discussed how they relate to one’s job search. As it relates to leadership, the same principles apply. All the principles we discussed in the Signature for Success program are invaluable to expressing a leadership brand. Leaders need to ask themselves: Do I lead by example? How best can I share my vision for what we want to accomplish? How can I instill trust in my people—those who report to me, those who work with me, and the leadership above me?
For leaders, the principles discussed are reviewed from a slightly different perspective, as follows:
- Be Clear: What do I stand for? What is my leadership brand? Leaders are visionary and need to be able to convey that to their organizations clearly and effectively.
- Be Professional: Leaders need a whole different set of skills, such as managerial and organizational skills that they may not have had to call upon prior to being thrust into a position of leadership. However, they usually still need to have core competency in the area they are leading so that they can provide sound guidance on how the day-to-day operations get done.
- Be Confident: Who would follow a tentative, wishy-washy leader who seems unsure of himself/herself?
- Be True (Be Consistent): Of course, much has been written about how leaders need to “walk the talk.” In addition, leaders generally need to hammer home their vision over and over again, to repeatedly hold the high goal before everyone so that they are continually motivated to reach those goals.
- Be Bold: Leaders are necessarily leading….That means they are out in front, leading the way, sometimes treading in unknown territory. Boldness in leadership takes courage of a different sort.
- Be Connected: The higher up you go, the trickier the networking gets (and the more important it gets). When you are networking with your peers, you must always be mindful of the messages you are conveying. In general, leaders do not whine or complain about unrealistic deadlines or unsolvable problems to those who report to them. They must find other like-minded leaders to discuss their challenges with, in an appropriate forum. But often, the alliances they form throughout their industries can really be beneficial to the company as a whole. So once you become a leader in your company, being connected gets taken to a whole new level.
- Be Dynamic: Leadership skills are different than professional skills. There are ALWAYS new levels of leadership to be achieved. We are never “done.” While someone in Accounting may eventually be able to “check the box” on skills related to tax implications and general accounting principles, a leader of the accounting department will need to motivate a team of tired, overworked individuals when the end of quarter or end of year crunch-times come around. Motivational skills, listening skills and communication skills are the hallmarks of good leadership, and these skills can always be further honed.
If you’re a leader, then you need to focus on your leadership brand. If you aren’t (but would like to be), then you need to focus on your personal brand. The benefits are tremendous!