Even though it may not always seem like it, we can control the most valuable property we own, which is the space that lies between our two ears. How we analyze and interpret our experiences as they happen to us has everything to do with how we think about things. Believe it or not, we all have a mental skill set, which gives us more or less of the reality in both our internal and external worlds. Therefore, it can also work the other way, as leaders, we occupy a certain mental real estate position in the heads of our followers known as our leadership brands. Leaders who buy into this concept build better cultures, institute and execute change effectively and produce more desired outcomes. Leaders who don’t buy into it simply tell themselves “others are going to make up their minds about me and I can’t control their views.”
Even though it may not always seem like it, we can control the most valuable property we own, which is the space that lies between our two ears.
Make no mistake about it, designing and implementing a leadership brand for yourself is not simple. It is not as easy as simply making a list of the attributes I would like to have as a leader in the future. No, it requires you to look up from your daily busy work from time to time and ask yourself if what you are doing is congruent with who you want to be and how you would like others to see you. This kind of introspection and reflection to raise awareness can fall right off your to-do list when the pressure is on and deadlines are rapidly approaching. At the same time, you must come to the realization that the mental real estate you occupy in others’ heads is constantly sending perception signals to them on how to look at you and how to treat you in every interaction they have with you. So, with that in mind, surely we can agree it is well worth the time you potentially invest in shaping and living your leadership brand.
In short, brands generally succeed because the consumer likes them, interacts with them and wants to be associated with them. Think Nike or Under Armor, except in human leadership terms. In designing your leadership brand here are some questions to keep in mind:
1. Where am I an expert?
You have some specialties about you. It is entirely possible; others see them more clearly than you do. In many cases, when others ask them whom they should talk to about your expertise, they will say your name. This is a strong brand characteristic. When you are known for something specific. What is that? Is it conflict management? Is it thinking skills? Is it strategy? Perhaps you are optimistic and a confidence builder. You have a go-to move that works magic for people. Be known for it.
2. What words describe how I want to make a difference as a leader?
Being proactive, you should write the words down that you would like to own as property in the minds of those you lead that makes you different and valuable. When people think of these words, they think of you. When they think of you, they think of these words. The only way you can make it happen, is if you identify what they are and then adapt your way toward “behaving into” those words. You need reliable improvement-oriented feedback on a constant basis to make sure you are navigating in the direction of your desired envisioned leadership brand.
3. Is my behavior consistent?
This is the harder part. People form their impressions of you based on what they see you do and on their interactions with you. If you say you want people to see you as diplomatic and agreeable but you behave in an obstinate and argumentative way. Which way do you think they will brand you? If your brand is going to depend on your emotions or what mood you are in at the time, it will be difficult to create a consistent leadership brand because feelings change very rapidly. People like consistency in a brand; they want the same experience every time. When you are consistent, reward yourself. When you are not, remind yourself why you want it and try again.
Developing and building a vision for your brand is the formative and somewhat easy part. The hard part comes when you have to live, practice and demonstrate it consistently. It is a worthy pursuit to try to own valuable and differentiated real estate in the minds of people who see you in a leadership position. It is much more valuable when you can build that brand and space around expertise which is positive, reliable, enjoyable and consistent.
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