Personal branding is serious business these days. Since the 1997 publication of Tom Peters’ “The Brand Called You” in Fast Company, personal branding has gone from a radical idea to a career basic. But how much thought have you given to building your leadership brand?
“Many of us build our professional brand and create a digital identity, but few of us take a clear-eyed look at our leadership brand,” says CCL’s Stephanie Lischke. “People in individual contributor roles, especially, are likely to overlook their leadership brand.”
“Smart organizations are looking to develop leaders at all levels, not just within their management pool,” Lischke continues. “High-performing, experienced professionals are seen as important leaders, as are the up-and-coming high-potential talent.”
Your leadership brand is created by the ways you behave, react and interact. And it is linked to your effectiveness.
Consider the role of a highly experienced professional – what CCL calls a “hi-pro.” These individual contributors play critical roles as engineers, designers, medical professionals, marketing or logistics experts, and so on. They are expected to take on project-management roles or be key players on cross-functional teams. “If you are a hi-pro, you can’t rely on your subject-matter expertise to get the job done,” says Lischke. “You need to be a leader, too, if you are going to influence others, work as a team and get results.”
Similarly, high potentials need to develop leadership skills alongside their professional skills. “While you are going after the experiences needed to take on larger roles and pursue the management track, you should also be building your skill and reputation as a leader,” Lischke notes.
So, what does it take to create a leadership brand that boosts both your career and your organization?
Kim Leahy, portfolio manager of CCL’s Leadership Fundamentals course for individual contributors, shares these tips:
First, think “process,” not “position.” Leadership is a process, not a title. It’s about working with others in ways that establish direction, create alignment and build commitment. Rather than looking for someone else to be a leader, individual contributors need to ask themselves: “What am I bringing to the leadership process?” “How do I fit into the process of effective leadership in my group or in my project team?”
Second, understand your brand. Like it or not, you already have a leadership brand. You have a reputation based on how you get things done and how you interact with others. To leverage your leadership brand or to steer it in a different direction, you need to get a clear picture of how others perceive you today. Start paying attention to how you work – not just what you know or what you accomplish. How do you learn? How do you share information, make decisions and influence others? How do you build and nurture relationships? Just by paying attention to these questions, you’ll gain some insight. You’ll also want to check in with peers, a mentor and your boss – or seek out opportunities for formal feedback or a leadership development program – to gain a better picture of your leadership brand.
Third, take control. You are in charge of your leadership brand, so invest in your learning and development as a leader. Your boss or your organization won’t tell you exactly what is needed or hand you the tools and experiences that will boost your effectiveness.
Take time to think about your current job and future career. How does your leadership brand support your work today? What would happen if you could be more effective? How could leadership help get you there? What do you need to learn or change to improve your leadership skills and hone your leadership brand?
Finally, live your leadership brand. Your employer needs you to be as effective as you can be. Your co-workers do, too. But investing in yourself as a leader brings benefits to you as well. It can improve your job satisfaction and open the door to new opportunities, both now and in the future.
“Experienced managers and seasoned professionals tell us they wish they had developed fundamental leadership skills much earlier in their careers,” says Leahy. “Today, with the shifting, unpredictable economic and employment landscape, creating and living your leadership brand is more important than ever.”
Leadership Fundamentals: Not Just for Managers
If you’re a skilled expert or ambitious top performer, don’t ignore your role as a leader. Leadership development isn’t only for people with “manager” titles.
Individual contributors need leadership skills to work effectively on project teams, to succeed in larger or more complex assignments and to meet strategic objectives.
CCL’s Leadership Fundamentals program is a powerful, two-day course that will increase your ability to:
- Develop a new perspective on the process of leadership and how you can lead in your current role.
- Understand different learning styles and use this information to improve communication and relate to others.
- Improve your interpersonal savvy and influencing skills.
- Identify and nurture key relationships to be more effective in current and future roles.
- Hone your personal leadership brand.
- Create and get started on your personal development plan.