At some point in their career, many leaders decide they need to brush off their current image and find a new or stronger direction. It is really about reinventing a personal brand, in order to advance in a way that better reflects passions and values. —
By Dave Desouza
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said, “We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done.” People in leadership positions have built themselves a brand over the years by demonstrating competence, knowledge and expertise that enabled career growth.
Along the way, they also developed a reputation that can often have the unintended consequence of locking them on a path they do not necessarily want to stay on. People might think that “They know everything about managing the tech department” or that “They are an ideal human resources professional.” They can be “blinkered” into only seeing a further career path in their respective departments because that is how others see them.
But what if they want to expand their career beyond the tech department, or to move into a position that works more with the community rather than strictly internally? People gain an image and a reputation, and leadership paths often end up straight and narrow. Reinvention of a personal brand with the goal of satisfying self rather than meeting other people’s expectations is something not to be overlooked.
What do You Feel Capable of Doing?
Personal brand equity is the perception others have of you from how you have promoted yourself through experience, personality and expertise. It is how you present yourself to others, and people in leadership positions have often perfected it. Successful personal brand building sets them apart from everyone else, leading to career advancements.
Naturally, taking control of a personal brand is a little easier when done earlier rather than later in one’s career. However, anyone can do it at any stage of life. You followed a path that got you to this point, but now you want to rebrand to deepen a sense of fulfillment with your career. There you are – people see you on one path, while you see yourself veering off to a path that is more challenging, interesting or fulfilling.
The personal brand is really about the integration of your personal and professional identity – competencies plus passion; experience plus values; expertise plus future direction.
First, rebranding does not necessarily mean giving up a current career. You do not have to drop out of a leadership position in a Fortune 500 company to work at the zoo with endangered animals. It can mean building brand equity in a way that expands your image so that you are not locked into one career path. Perhaps you want to advance laterally in your company, or leave the corporate headquarters for a position in a faraway corner of the world. How do you convince the decision makers to let you demonstrate what you are capable of doing?
Polish Your Brand
Building brand equity to meet career goals is like polishing your personal brand so that what is hidden inside can shine. Your leadership brand to this point is the sum of previous experiences and interactions with other people, but now you want the brand to glow in a way that meets your aspirations. The Center for Creative Leadership discussed leadership branding and described a “fuzzy” leadership brand, which can stall career growth and keep you in roles where you do not get opportunities to show what you are capable of doing.
The suggested six ways to strengthen a personal leadership brand are to list what you love about work, audit your online presence, choose an accountability partner, create a tagline for your brand, design an action plan, and ask yourself questions. The action plan includes building new competencies, assessing progress and getting help when needed. Without feedback from an honest partner, how else will you know your action plan is working to change perspectives? The accountability partner tells you the truth about how others see you. The questions you ask yourself concern things like do your actions continue to reflect your values?
The proof that reinventing your leadership brand is working is when you find yourself doing new projects you would not normally be asked to do, when people begin complimenting you on the new work, and when higher-level decision makers notice your new leadership brand. If you are an entrepreneur, it could mean getting industry recognition or new customers. Building brand equity means deciding what you want to be known for and developing the action plan to succeed, so feedback indicating people are seeing you and your work with a new perspective is a win.
Mainak Dhar is the managing director and CEO for India and South Asia at Kimberly-Clark, and the author of the book “Brand New Start.” He points out that people tend to define themselves by financial success, educational qualifications or job profile, but what they need is a sense of personal purpose. What makes a truly impactful and authentic personal brand is when the traditional ways of defining success are combined with a clear understanding of passions and strengths.
Just about every article written on personal branding includes pursuing passions because passions trigger actions. Career advancement may be satisfying for a while, but at some point, people find themselves asking if they are satisfied with their career direction. If the answer is “yes,” then great! If the answer is no, then bringing the personal brand into alignment with your passions is how you can shine.
If some of this advice seems a bit vague, that is to be expected. The personal brand is really about the integration of your personal and professional identity – competencies plus passion; experience plus values; expertise plus future direction.
Brand equity becomes the value of a personal brand that is well thought out and has a level of sway in the minds of others. The first step is looking ahead and seeing where you want to be headed, and then asking yourself if that is the path you are on. Let the answer be your guide.