Building your leadership brand
Throughout March the media attention on the gender pay gap and focus on activities around International Women’s Day highlighted the lack of progress around getting women into leadership roles. It’s clear, we still need a more concerted effort and greater visibility of female talent throughout the pipeline. Building a leadership brand is one of the most important contributions to raising the visibility of talented women, but it is also one of the most difficult things to get right. Why is branding so important for your leadership journey?
Branding for leadership, commonly known as your personal leadership brand, is pivotal for building your presence and raising your visibility to attract the right champion who can support and develop your leadership aspirations. Branding is a powerful tool to ensure you control your image, and, in an increasingly complicated world where we are exposed to thousands of brands on a daily basis, it is now more important than ever to keep control of your personal leadership brand.
When we think about well-known individuals we have strong opinion, or even reactions to these people, despite the fact we don’t know them nor have a close relationship with them. If we discuss Barak Obama, Sheryl Sandberg or even Donald Trump we have a visceral response to these individuals. These rapid responses are the end-result of our brains attempting to manage resources, in other words intuition and biases kick in.
In order to get to grips with your leadership brand you need to be aware of three critical areas – Attributes, Authenticity and Values.
Attributes are the characteristics you own, your skills, track record of success and the resources you bring to your leadership. Your authenticity is critical to your role as a leader, creating a genuine model of leadership that your colleagues can relate to and showing just enough vulnerability to be real. Of course values are the bedrock for creating a strong brand, knowing yourself and the behaviours that, for you, are non-negotiable.
Brand congruence is a simple equation...
Your self-impression = How people perceive you
The combination of these factors creates powerful resources for individuals to build their reputation, power and presence as leaders. You can gain real value from the experience of uncovering and understanding how these factors provide the foundations for your leadership brand, and working hard to improve brand congruence.
When this isn’t done well inevitably brand gap occurs. Brand gap is the result of misalignment in attributes, values or authenticity. More often than not, this occurs when individuals haven’t uncovered what really matters to them or clearly understood their unique skills, to coin a marketing term – their unique selling point - leading to unclear and even worse unrealistic expectations around an individual’s capabilities impacting confidence in their leadership abilities.
Be clever with technology
An additional dimension in understanding the brand gap depends on who is creating the brand. The increasing proliferation of digital media means it is easier for others to shape your brand. In essence if you are not in control of your brand someone else is. Your digital footprint is critical even when you think it may not matter in your world. Consider how often we Google people we have just met or a speaker when deciding to attend an event; this same courtesy is often extended to you, perhaps without you even realising it.
Our research into ‘Women in Leadership’ across 53 countries, showed that a key factor to women reaching the most senior leadership roles was being championed. We define champions as senior executives, with influence, who identify and advocate for the progression of talented individuals – both men and women – in organisations. They can identify your potential and recognise the value of investing in your leadership journey, allowing them to identify stretch opportunities and open doors for you. . Developing and controlling a strong, distinctive personal brand early in your career or in a new job, also helps you become more visible to champions.
Building your brand can start with something as simple as you reflecting on how you align yourself with well-known brands and the message that sends out about your leadership.