Have you ever met someone with such a strong personality that they are a brand (or their company’s brand) by themselves?
Now, try to define what makes these leaders so compelling, and you’ll have a hard time to put in words what you know for a fact.
The reason being that they embody the brand; they don’t represent the brand.
They are the brand.
Successful or not, we all brand ourselves:
The way we dress, the way we walk, the way we deal with others, the way we talk – or don’t -, our body language… all brand us.
Some might be happy with the impression (branding) they make on others, some may not.
The latter will say “well this is how they see me, there is nothing I can do about it!”.
Others – often leaders in the making - may think that building their own brand is something that may turn their life around, that allows them get on the driver seat.
Yet, it is a very challenging endeavor.
First, if you want to be one of them, you need to set up a clear vision:
Who are you now and who you want to be; how do you want others (life companions, bosses, work colleagues) to perceive you, understand what you need to do to achieve these goals, to set milestones, etc.
This is where it gets complicated:
You define your ultimate goal and decide the means to get to it in a specific environment (professional and personal – keeping in mind that they are eventually linked one way or the other).
Let’s say that few milestones away, your environment changes drastically – you’re in a new professional setting (say, you changed job and your new manager style and expectations are totally different from the previous one).
What happens then?
Do you need to rethink your personal brand design to adapt to your new environment?
Consider for a moment the most successful and long-lasting commercial brands.
Coca-Cola or Walt Disney – to only consider two, while we could also cite Johnson’s, L’Oréal, or McDonald’s among many more – are on top of the list of world’s most popular and loved brands (actually, Walt Disney is the world’s most popular brand according to the 2017 Brand Finance’s annual ranking).
Generations of consumers have been purchasing Coca-Cola (established in 1892) and Walt Disney (established in 1923) products – each with their generations’ specifics and expectations.
Yet, the brands’ look and feel, their ‘faces’ (color codes, logos, etc.) apparently remained the same – in fact, they went through subtle changes throughout the years, in order not to feel dated and foreign to the generation of the time, while carefully keeping their unique acknowledged by all identity.
What about personal branding then?
It is the same:
Once you define your own brand, you feel comfortable with it, and you started to implement it in a way that satisfies you, you need to remain loyal to it – it’s the only way to build your ‘customers’ loyalty – aka, your professional and personal environment.
In a similar way, commercial brands build customers loyalty through marketing (which is nothing more than training an audience to recognize, adopt, and finally like said brand), you need to train people around you to see you and deal with you in a way that properly address your own branding, hence recognizing you as a 'full fledged' leader.
How does it work in a professional environment?
Let’s say you start a new job, totally different from the previous one on which you based (certainly without realizing it) your current branding.
First, you feel foreign to your new environment and you wonder how you can adapt without betraying yourself.
Look at the positive figures in your new company – those who deal in the most constructive and efficient way with their colleagues, customers and management.
See from their behaviors which are the closest to your personal branding elements.
Once you could isolate the two or three points that positively match who you want to be / perceived, incorporate them in your own branding to remain the same while matching your new environment’s expectations – the same way the Walt Disney logo remains always the same but is always changing according to needs and times.
We mentioned in a previous article that real leaders are not necessarily managers.
Those associates are the actual company’s influencer; they are the ones who really make the difference – even if not officially recognized by management.
Find out who are these influencer, these true leaders.
They know your new company’s culture; they know when to speak up and when not, how to exercise their influence.
Look at them, inspire yourself from them so that you can broaden your own span of influence.
Show that you are an open-minded expert.
Open-minded experts are recognized as such – any company long-term success needs experts open to the world; no one needs those experts who are only fluent on their area of expertise and ignore anything else.
Demonstrate that you can make a difference so to become an influencer leader – always keep in mind that your expertise may become obsolete sooner than you expect if you don’t stay continuously on your toes and keep learning.
Always put your performance in perspective.
In other words, never thing you’re perfect and you don’t need to improve – even the best among us have room to improvement.
Whatever your job is, ensure to get continuous feedback from people’s judgement you trust.
A certain dose of humility is necessary for your personal branding to be perceived positively and to assert your leadership.
It will also allow you to earn respect as a recognized professional.
Finally, you need to behave in a most consistent manner.
If you want your personal branding to be perceived positively, the way you deal with others day in and day out is key:
Don’t surprise them by being unpredictable.
“I like to work on a no-surprise basis. People like knowing what they’re going to get from you,” said Hamdi Ulukaya, President and CEO of Chobani.
Your personal brand must always seem dependable.
Therefore, you cannot afford to be moody and impulsive. People must feel they can count on you; no matter of what.
True leaders are always reliable, always there when you need them.
Always keep in mind that successful commercial brands put a lot of effort and money on consistency.
Therefore, to be successful, you need to act in a similar way:
From your LinkedIn and Facebook pages to the way your desk show (clean and organized vs. messy), you must demonstrate constantly the strictest consistency.
Branding yourself in not a walk in the park - especially when part of branding is to be recognized as a leader!
It requires a lot of work, and a strict obedience to your milestones and final goal – it’s a life-long project.
This is the reason why you shouldn’t hesitate to reward yourself every time you achieve a milestone:
You deserve it!
Did you brand yourself?
If you did, how successful are you?
Share your experience!