I’ve always been fascinated by what makes a great leader. I’ve read a tonne of books, attended leadership development programs, invested in a coach and of course practised on the job.
I found leadership role models I wanted to emulate. And of course, those that I didn’t.
The leaders I admired most, came in all shapes and sizes.
Some were definitely bold and charismatic. Whilst others seemed quietly confident and measured. Some were super collaborative. Others autocratic and directing.
How did this help me identify what makes a great leader? The honest answer is it didn’t.
On the quest to find the answer, I turned to a world I knew best. The world of marketing and branding. And I flipped the question.
Instead of asking ‘What makes a great leader? I asked, ‘What is distinct about you as a leader?’ and ‘Why do others follow you?’ That’s when I had my light-bulb moment.
I concluded that great leaders are like great brands.
• They are distinctive – they position themselves well
• They stand for something – they articulate their values
• They are consistent in what they say, how they say it and how they present themselves – they have brand personality and a brand identity
As a result, they attract followers. And of course, you can’t be a leader without followers, right?
So, what attracts people to follow? Research suggests, there are four things:
1. Trust: a firm belief in the integrity, reliability and confidence of their leader
2. Compassion: the empathy, care and concern the leader shows them
3. Stability: a strong sense of security, especially through the toughest of times
4. Hope: the excitement, optimism and enthusiasm for a better future
I figured that if you use this research and apply the principles of branding, you can create your own personal brand of leadership that others will want to follow. A brand of leadership that sets you apart whilst enabling you to remain true to yourself.
Here are 4 things to think about in building your leadership brand.
Great brands position themselves well. Think BMW. Its tag line ‘the ultimate driving machine’, positions the brand distinctively. It owns this space in the premium range car market. Whether it’s the 1, 2, 3, 5 or 7 series, the BMW is known for giving its followers a dynamic driving experience. It uses this position credibly in its advertising to reinforce its position.
Like any great brand, great leaders own their spot. They too are credible. They know what they stand for and express this through the stories they share. Their angle is easy for others to grasp. Inspiring others to follow and take action.
As a leader, ask yourself what is distinct about you? What do you want to be remembered for? How do you share this with others?
Your values are what matter to you most. They are part of you, part of your story and part of the stories that you tell. They guide your decisions and influence your actions.
Think Martin Luther King’s infamous speech, ‘I have dream’ in which he suggests that equality may be possible in the future. He believed in the power of serving others with humility. He reminded his followers that they didn’t need an advanced degree or lots of wealth to make a difference in the world.
What are your values? How do your values guide your actions? How does your leadership benefit the organisation you work for? And the staff that report to you?
In marketing, when we build brands, we talk about expressing the brand’s personality. Think Apple and ‘Cool’, IBM and ‘Intelligent’. It’s often the brand’s personality that attracts people to it.
Successful brands invest in building and protecting their brands. As leaders shouldn’t we do the same? We have personalities too, right?
Your personality is a critical part of your leadership brand. It shows others what to expect. Some leaders like Richard Branson are rule breakers and adventurous, others like Bill Gates are logical and critical. Both have very different personalities. Yet both are very successful. What they have in common is that they express their personalities consistently, in the work that they do.
When building your leadership brand, think about what is unique about your personality. Are you conservative? Serious? Adventurous? Approachable? Knowledgeable? Or something else? What is it about your personality that others can expect? Pay attention to how you display your personality to others. Introduce it into your leadership style. And remember, be consistent.
This is simply how the brand presents itself. How it styles itself and how it is perceived by others. In other words, how it looks and feels.
In building your leadership brand think about how you are perceived. What you say and how you say it, your body language and behaviour, how you dress and anything personal that you choose to share about yourself, forms your brand identity.
The best way to determine your leadership brand is to allow others to help you. Authenticity is the key. If you don’t know where to start and you’d like help, enquire about our Personal Branding for Leadership program