Everyone, at every level of an organization, has a personal brand. But not everyone knows what their personal brand is, or, more importantly, what it should be.
As a leader, taking the time to carefully and thoughtfully develop your personal brand is something you absolutely need to be doing. By clearly articulating the value you bring, the outcomes you achieve, and the areas in which you excel, you will position yourself for new opportunities that align with your strengths and areas of interest.
What is a personal brand?
Your personal brand is, at the most basic level, the impression people have of you. It’s your reputation. Most importantly, it expresses the value you deliver to others, and as a leader demonstrating value is key.
While that sounds simple enough, there are actually two aspects to your brand that you need to be managing. The first is your ideal brand. It’s what you develop, and represents how you want to be perceived by others. The second is your actual brand. This is in the minds of the people around you, and represents how you are actually perceived.
If you’ve never taken the time to manage your personal brand, there will often be a gap between your ideal and actual brands. Leaders often seem surprised to learn about this gap, as they assume people see them the way they see themselves. But getting your brands to align isn’t a passive process. It’s ongoing, continuous and requires a thoughtful and intentional approach.
How can you develop your personal brand?
The first step to developing your personal brand is to start thinking about what you want it to look like, sound like and even feel like. Who do you want people to see when you walk into a room? What do you embody as a leader? Sit down and take time to sketch out where you add value, what you do better than anyone else, and why people should seek you out.
Then, take it a step further by identifying meaningful experiences you had. Highlight times when you were both successful and unsuccessful, and describe the outcomes you achieved and the lessons you learned as a result. Your ideal brand should be aspirational, because if it can’t inspire you, it certainly won’t inspire others.
Then comes the hard part. You need to be able to seek out, and accept, honest feedback from the people around you. Your personal brand ultimately relies on other people’s impression of you, and you might be surprised to learn that something you consider a strength is actually interpreted as derailing. Take this feedback, understand it, and use it to identify gaps between your ideal and actual brand. Only then, after an honest reflection of where you can improve, can you take the steps required to close these gaps.
Putting it all together with a personal value proposition
Now that you have a clear understanding of the personal brand you aspire to embody, and what your actual brand is today, you can create a powerful personal value proposition (PVP) that clearly articulates and communicates your brand.
Similar to a corporate value proposition, your PVP is a statement of the tangible outcomes you are able to produce up, down and across your organization and the unique values and benefits you bring that others do not. Developing a clear PVP is critical for effective leaders to ensure they are constantly in demand, increase their career satisfaction, and seek out and find new opportunities.
My challenge to you: Sketch out your ideal personal brand
Now that you understand the different factors that go into a personal brand, sit down and take a thoughtful approach to developing your own. Ask yourself what you want to be known for, why you should be sought out, what sets you apart, and what added value you bring to any situation. People with successful personal brands know what sets them apart, and they use that value to increase the success of their team and their organizations.
Jennifer Collins is CEO and Managing Director of Hazell and Collins Associates (HCA). Learn more about HCA’s Brand Development service for leaders and high performing professionals.