Here's a question for you: are you struggling right now with too much to do, not enough visibility, or losing key resources and employees? Then you probably have a clarity problem - a clarity problem with your personal brand. Every leader, whether they are a top executive, or a company of one, has a personal brand. Building that brand right solves most of these problems faster than you might imagine.
Even those aspiring to become leaders benefit from building strong personal brands. We all do. It gets us the promotions, the clients and the bigger projects.
Here's the thing: we are either managing our brand, or defaulting to someone else, like our competitors or the market, managing it for us. That spells struggle.
If you find you visibility and growth aren’t what you had hoped, then your brand likely needs a little bit of clarity.
If you aren't crystal clear on the following 7 questions, then it is a sure thing that no one else is either. And a lack of clarity is the most common problem that holds brands (and leaders) back from the success they crave.
Here are the questions you need to answer to create clarity in your brand, both for yourself and any audience you are appealing to:
1. Why Do I Choose to Lead? If you are heading up a department, a division, just starting to climb the organizational ladder, or running your own company—you have choices. You can choose to follow the money, develop a reputation for excellence, be innovative, teach others, support the overall team, build something revolutionary, and even break free of the status quo and be a disruptor. There are many other personal choices that drive our professional leadership brands. We can lead at the forefront, or from within a team. Leadership, and your brand, mean something unique to you. We get a lot of messages from our circle of influence and society about what it ought to mean. By in large, however, this is not a reliable source of clarity for our own inner motivations. If you don’t have a clear understanding of why you are headed in the direction you are, then start here. Knowing why you choose to lead is the key to true authenticity.
2. What Do I Stand For? Besides our inner definition of success, there is always a one-of-a-kind perspective and understanding we bring to everything we do. Trying to copy someone else’s unique approach is not only inauthentic, it can be very detrimental to your budding brand. If you find yourself mimicking leaders in your field, give yourself a little bit of a break. Imitation is common as we are learning to recognize our own stance. But once you see what you are doing, take a step back. Study the masters, certainly. Then ask yourself, what fresh value can I bring to this conversation? (I promise, you have it!) If you have been copying other people’s social media quotes, and using their model as your blueprint for brand visibility, slow down. Regroup, and begin promoting your leadership and brand from the unassailable ground of your own incredible insight.
3. What Are My Superpowers? Never underestimate yourself. That’s not an invitation to arrogance. It is taking realistic stock of your strengths, talents and skills. While a few individuals certainly do overestimate or overinflate their strengths and talents, the majority err on the side of dismissing them too easily. Often we do so because the things we are really good at feel too easy to us to dare call them a strength or talent. We might even have been scolded for them in the past (for example, my love of language and storytelling got me in trouble for talking too much in school – the exact same skills that make me an excellent speaker and author today!) So, ask yourself, what do people tell you repeatedly that you are good at? What do they ask for your help with? Where do you receive the most compliments? Sure, it might not be what you wish to be known for, but you can use any strength or talent in the pursuit of your dreams. Using them brings your leadership and personal brand into better focus – on who you really are.
4. What Do I Need to Let Go Of? Undefined brands and leaders usually suffer from Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) in one or more areas. We take on too much, believing we simply must for our survival. Sometimes it is a fear of narrowing who we work with, niching down and focusing on serving one core group really, really well. Here are the other top FOMO’s to make sure you let go of:
a. Being highly visible on more than three social media and at all the networking opportunities
b. Accepting every partnership or chance to speak, even if it doesn’t match your brand or objectives
c. Controlling every activity with your name on it, rather than defining your process and voice, then delegating, automating or eliminating effectively
d. Doing the easy, or less taxing, stuff in order to avoid the harder and higher priority work
5. What Mindset Will I Bring to Everything I Do? There really are just two core mindsets, although they each have a wide range of ways they can show up. The first is the Growth Mindset, with its flip side, the Fixed Mindset. A Growth Mindset encompasses many other positive mindsets we read about. Essentially, this mindset is present when you thrive on challenge, and don't see failure as a way to describe yourself but as a springboard for growth and developing your abilities. When you have a growth mindset, you embrace that your intelligence and talents are all capable of growing, perhaps infinitely. The Fixed Mindset, by contrast, believes basic qualities, like intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. Leaders and brands with a fixed mindset spend time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. Are you constantly working to expand the definition of your brand, or are you afraid to try new things for fear of failing? There’s a reason “New and Improved” sells – we crave it. “Same old, same old” has a short shelf life.
6. What Will I Do to Look After Myself? Building your leadership and your brand is a marathon, not a sprint, despite what you see daily in your social media feed. If you try to grow too fast, or eat the elephant all at once, you will crash and burn out. Pace yourself, and find the time to pause, be strategic, and vision what’s next—even if it is just next week. You can’t experience or, much less, project clarity about yourself and your brand if you are a blur of activity without clear direction and focus. I am fond of saying: We must slow down in order to speed up. That is the best self-care there is, because it is from that space we get the rest, eat the good food, take the vacation, do the exercise, pay attention to our families, and develop our creativity and spiritual life.
7. How Will I Continue to Learn? Albert Einstein has been popularly quoted for the statement: “Once you stop learning, you start dying.” Becoming a leader in your field, or a go-to thought leader and personal brand, is only one step in a journey that will last a lifetime. We all invent and reinvent ourselves many times, even if we maintain one career arc (a rare thing these days!) Self reinvention is one of the most fulfilling forms of learning available to us. We learn who we are, and who we are becoming. Of course, this question brings us full circle, as we spiral up, to a wider circle of impact and influence. Then once again we get to ask ourselves, “Why Do I Choose to Lead?”