Branding Basics for Leadership Development

We tend to think of branding in terms of businesses, products, or organizations. Brands such as Microsoft or Toyota automatically come to mind. But as individuals, branding is a tool we need to take advantage of. Anything can be a brand! You are a brand, and your personal branding is an essential part of your development as a leader. A personal brand is an aggregate of your actions, experience, and skills that sets you apart in your professional field. It is not self-promotion, but recognition by others of the value that you bring to the table.

Why do I need to develop a personal brand?

Think of the last time you applied for a job; at the end of the application process, you were most likely required to provide references, personal and professional. Those references spoke to your potential employer about your strengths, skills, and what makes you the perfect fit for the company. They described your brand. What about that time when you applied for grad school? Did you provide a letter of recommendation from your previous professor? That letter was a testament to your brand.

Every step of the way we are being asked to show our brand. Going to a job interview? Show your brand by providing a resume or sharing your LinkedIn profile. Attending a networking event? Show your brand by telling others about you, your work, and showing them why they should be interested in connecting with you. Applied for a loan? Show your brand by providing credit history, your good standing with creditors, your reliability. Asked for a raise? Show your brand by showcasing the work you are doing and how you go above and beyond in what you do, how you lead your projects, how you innovate and find solutions to help the company succeed.

We are constantly presenting our brand, especially in the professional field. Your employer or potential employer has the ability to do a search with your name to see what your brand has achieved. A 2020 recruitment survey by The Manifest found that “43% of employers use Google search to research potential candidates.” A social media search of your name will show what your brand has to say in a more personal setting. Although illegal in some states, and heavily regulated in others, it is still a very common practice among hiring and HR managers and could lead to an offer not being extended or employment termination. The Manifest survey also tells us that “79% of HR Managers surveyed have denied a candidate based on their social media profiles”.

If your personal brand does not align with what you are trying to portray or if it does not align with the organizational values, then you may be passed for that position, or that raise or that loan. As a leader, if your management style does not align with your brand, you will lose the respect of your employees and can even lose your leadership position.

Developing your personal brand will require you to work constantly on your personal growth. You will need to search for information about yourself, and learn to understand your audience. Showcase your strengths, your achievements, and everything that makes you stand out. It will require you to clean up and boost your online presence while establishing yourself as a leader and expert in your field by creating and sharing relevant content. You need to become a respected voice in your professional field and your online networks. Ultimately, you will need to evaluate your work, make adjustments, and put in more work to make it happen. Even if you are self-employed, your personal brand will make or break your income, because consumers will provide feedback about your brand that will affect the decision of others to do business with you.

Look at yourself through other people's eyes. To start this work right now, text your LinkedIn URL to a close friend or family member and ask that person to tell you 2 things they understand about you. Do these things reflect what you want your brand to say?

Make a list of what you envision for your personal brand, compare it to where you stand today. Refine that list until you are satisfied with the direction you want for your personal brand. Continue to evaluate your brand.

If you need additional help with your personal branding and leadership journey schedule a free Discovery Call with our leadership coach.

Photo credit: Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

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