We have all heard of branding a product, service or an organization, yet we do not think about applying this to ourselves. A brand is what influences people to buy, to be loyal, or to promote. Think about how a brand has influenced you to believe in a product. They use branding for athletes and movie stars, why not think about branding yourself as a leader?

What is a Leadership Brand? 

A Leadership Brand is the sum total of you as a leader. Your brand is how you show up and present yourself. It’s how you are as a human being, how you treat other people, and how you react to information. There’s no way to fake it or make it, it’s just you. Your Leadership Brand is what connects you to other people, it’s the way people think and feel about you. Do the people you lead have a good feeling about you? Do they trust you? Do they want to follow you? Do people feel inspired and cared for, uplifted by your leadership?

Leading Beyond Change

How Do You Have the Best Leadership Brand?

Your Leadership Brand is how people connect with you as a leader. It determines the relationship you have with the people you work with. When people connect with you as a leader, they have confidence in you. You have a strong enough relationship to have difficult conversations and co-create together in extraordinary ways. People will trust your “brand” because they will feel the authenticity of who you are and how you show up in every situation.

woman smiling with her colleagues in business office

Your Brand is You!

The biggest trap people fall into when they step into a leadership role is that they think they have to be something other than who they are. The view of leadership has been dominated by command-and-control leadership styles. Leaders who can get things done while presenting themselves in strong commanding ways, sometimes even through fear.

What is your “brand” of leadership? How are you as a leader and what type of leader do you want to be? What will be your legacy as a leader? How do you want to create impact, create change, or lead an organization to high performance

Most people think that one has to put effort into creating a Leadership Brand. That there is some sort of structure, steps, or a defined way to have an extraordinary Leadership Brand.

businessman thinking in front of a whiteboard

At SHIFT314, our view is that your Leadership Brand is really simple: Your Brand Is You. The way to have an extraordinary brand is to be the best you possible. 

Leadership is how you show up in every situation. It’s how you react to things and how you impact others. Most importantly, it’s what others feel and say about you. How do you measure your capability to lead others? Simply ask yourself this question: are others effortlessly following you of their own free will – not out of means for survival? 

You can ask yourself, honestly, who you are as a leader? This is your unconscious Leadership Brand. The honest investigation of who you are as a leader creates the path and desire for an evolution in your personal growth and an evolution into becoming the best You possible.

Your next step, to build your Leadership Brand, is to begin to ask yourself what type of leader (person) do I want to grow or evolve into. So how do you do that?

Exercise: Discovering Your Evolutionary Path 

This is a visualization exercise to discover your journey of growth to become the best you possible. Doing so is the foundation of who you are and stepping into your Leadership Brand. 

businessman meditating in the office

Read through this exercise then do it on your own. Visualization means to follow the guided words, see it in your mind’s eye- like a movie. Go with the first thought or vision (do not question what you see, just allow the visualization to be there, do not try to define it)

  • Find a quiet place to sit with your eyes closed
  • Feel your body sitting in the chair and feel your feet on the ground
  • Begin to breath, long slow and deep- beginning to relax
  • Imagine you are walking down a path, in a forest.
  • At the end of the path is a portal or a doorway… this is a doorway into your future as a leader
  • Walk through the doorway… first thought best thought- see where you are
  • Look around this future place….notice the place, what it feels like, who is there- what are you doing?
  • Notice how people are responding to you
  • What does it feel like in your body? Are you wearing different clothing? 
  • Who is around you and how are they relating to you?
  • Who or what have you impacted- What have you accomplished?
  • Have you inspired others to go on their own leadership journey?
  • How are your relationships, your perception of the world around you?
  • How does it feel? And bookmark this feeling and what you are experiencing
  • Begin to notice your breathing, feeling your body sitting in the chair  and your feet flat on the floor
  • Come back to this moment here and now
  • Journal your experience

The Foundation of a Great Leadership Brand

The work we do at SHIFT314 is about helping people become aware of how they show up as a leader and what is possible. It is about understanding and correcting those places where we cause damage to others, and amplifying those places where we uplift others. 

Evolutionary Leadership

The work of leadership is to take part in what we call Evolutionary Leadership. It’s the choice to evolve oneself and develop the skills and capabilities needed to evolve an organization. The key part of your brand is, “Are you an Evolutionary Leader? Are you somebody who’s ready to evolve themselves?” Do you think, “I’m great the way I am?” Many leaders believe, “I’m okay, it’s just about leading others.”

businessman looking over the balcony at the cityscape

If you’re signaling as a leader that you’re perfect and you don’t need to grow, what does that say to other people? It’s a horrible brand to say, “I’m good, but you need to change.” It’s very difficult to influence and create authentic relationships when we take that position.

In contrast, we can take the position that we’re open to evolve, we want to learn and grow. Then, we’re on our Evolutionary Leadership journey. When other people see us committed to our own growth, it allows them to connect with us as a real human being.

How to Build a Great Leadership Brand

#1 Gather Data: Conduct an Anonymous Survey

The first step is to gather data about your Leadership Brand. A lot of times when you ask people, “How am I doing as a leader?” people don’t want to share bad news. There is a lot of conditioning and fear.

african american coworkers having a conversation over lunch break

The best bet is to conduct an anonymous survey. Find a way people can give you the information without their name on it. This gives people the psychological safety to give honest feedback. This is what you need to know – the truth of how people perceive you and how you show up. These surveys ask questions like; “What are my strengths? What am I doing well as a leader? In which areas am I causing damage? How am I doing overall from a scale of one to 10?” 

An anonymous survey is a great way to get a sense of what’s really going on with our leadership and where the places to grow are. It gives you a sense of, “Where am I? What do I need to focus on next?” 

#2 Look at Your History: What are Your Bad Habits?

Most leadership training programs are heavy on developing your strengths. While this is good, it is not the technology to change your behaviors. One requires the courage to see where they can grow as a person.

woman thinking and looking into the distance with a galaxy overlay

Becoming aware of your bad habits will be the hardest part of your journey, yet the aspect of the journey in which you will gain the most rapid evolution. The hard part is becoming aware of how much damage you have caused, the most rapid evolution because Awareness is a technology to shift behaviors.

To have awareness, begin to contemplate or review the places where your behavior as a leader has caused damage to relationships. Look at the feedback you’ve received from teammates, bosses, or mentors about how you need to improve. You can take that all together to say, “This is my learning and evolution backlog. These are the things I can work through.” 

By doing this, you’re identifying specific behavior patterns to work on. These things are all repetitive — they are not new. You are going to keep doing what you did before unless you actually change it. “What got you here will not get you where you want to go.” Another famous quote is, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

Pro Tip: Put your bad habits (or damaging behaviors) on sticky notes and post them where you can see them all day long. Know that you are committed to your own personal evolution to become your best self, even though it may feel uncomfortable. Evolutionary leadership is the road less traveled, most people do not want to “see” the ugly in themselves. Remember, Awareness is part of the technology to shift behaviors. This is the most rapid means to Evolutionary Leadership. 

#3 Build Out Your Development Plan

Step three is building out your development plan. In which areas do you want to grow and become successful? When we take the time to review the places where we’re not showing up as our best self and identify the places to grow, we’re on our way to becoming a better leader. Awareness is the technology to shift behavior.

business woman in a black turtleneck sweater looking out the window

This goes against conventional wisdom. Usually we’re told, “Just develop your strengths. Develop this new skill, and you’ll be better.” There are many mapping formulas and programs that give you a sense of what you’re good at, your personality, strengths etc. They are popular because it builds up the ego. Yet they become a distraction and one never gets to the root causes of what’s blocking one’s potential for success.

We found the way to become a great leader is to work on your challenge areas. Work on the areas where you’re causing damage. If you get rid of all the damage, you’ll be a great leader. It’s really that simple.

The first step is creating some awareness of the damaging behaviors and seeing the truth in how you are really showing up. Then you can begin to plan or strategize how you want to invest in your evolutionary growth.

Above we gave you an exercise called “Discovering Your Evolutionary Path”. Use this as a tool to help you define your journey – who you want to grow into as a leader. This will help your Leadership Brand Strategy, it will build the desire and passion to fuel your evolutionary journey. You will know where this journey will take you.   

#4 Invest in Your Growth

What are you doing this day, month, or year to invest in your leadership growth? Improving your Leadership Brand will take time, effort, and attention. This means taking courses and reading books. There are many great resources out there. Of course we have seen a lot of success with our leadership courses and our book, Leading Beyond Change. These resources will help you learn how to show up as a great leader and create extraordinary workplaces.

concept of a business leader bridging a gap in business with wooden blocks

#5 Celebrate

Celebrate your commitment to growth. The fact that you’re taking the time to invest in your growth means you are already on your way to establishing a great Leadership Brand. 

As human beings, we are all imperfect. The technical term we use at SHIFT314 is “normal”. It’s totally normal to have areas where we are not showing up at our best. Celebrate that you have already taken the most important step: the choice to evolve.

What Makes Great Leadership?

As a leader, investing in your brand – your own evolution – is the most important and powerful thing you can focus on. Great leadership is not about getting others to do things or being the smartest person in the room. Great leadership is not about having a vision and telling others about it. Great leadership is the willingness to show up every day as your best self and create an extraordinary future with others. 

Leading Beyond Change