How strong is your leadership brand? Are you perceived as a premium leadership product? Or a cheap alternative to the real thing?
Our leadership brand represents how people perceive us as leaders. A strong leadership brand will open doors and help you to influence people and achieve your goals. A weak leadership brand will do just the opposite.
In this article, I’ll cover some great ways to build your leadership brand. They aren’t rocket-science, and are based on my own experiences working with great and not-so-great leaders, and from working with my coaching clients (who are all great, obviously!).
👉 If you want to lead better by becoming a coaching client, check out more about my coaching here!
Why You Should Care About Your Leadership Brand
There are many good reasons why your leadership brand matters.
An obvious benefit of a strong leadership brand is that it helps to progress your career. People are more likely to think of you first when they have an opportunity.
Next, a strong leadership brand simply makes your leadership life easier. People trust leaders who are credible, reliable and well respected. They are more likely to believe what you say, and trust your advice. You’ll be able to achieve your goals with fewer issues.
Your team will feel better too. It’s much easier to follow somebody who you respect. A team is more likely to feel motivated and work hard to support an effective, credible leader.
Below are my top 5 ways to build your leadership brand. Got any others? Leave a comment below!
1. Be Consistent to Build Your Leadership Brand
People like to know where they stand. They also like familiarity and routine. Being a consistent leader helps to build trust, because everyone knows what to expect when they deal with you.
Consistency in leadership comes in many forms, including:
- Temperament: Moody leaders are not pleasant to be around. If people are always guessing which version of you will show up, they’ll find it stressful to come to work. If you can remain calm and composed even when there’s trouble, this will go a long way.
- Reliability: Do you miss appointments or deadlines? Do you reschedule meetings at the last minute? Do you do what you say you will do? Reliability is a cornerstone of a strong leadership brand.
- Communication: People don’t like surprises and they like to be involved. If you can communicate consistently with the people around you, they’ll feel more involved and engaged.
How consistent are you being with your leadership? Do you say one thing but do another? Do you miss deadlines or appointments? Are you moody and impulsive?
If you say “sometimes” to any of the above, then you could build your leadership brand by focusing on being more consistent.
2. Take On the Right Amount Work
If you’re trying to build a positive leadership brand, it doesn’t help to be overwhelmed.
Many leaders associate working long hours with being a good leader. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that. If all you had to do was work longer and harder than everyone else, it would be easy to build a strong leadership brand.
The reality is, working long hours all the time can be a sign that you aren’t handling your workload. In some organisations, working “hard” (even on pointless tasks!) is part of the culture. But it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing your best work.
When you’re tired and burnt out, your productivity drops. You probably aren’t sleeping well either. Even though you’re showing up, you’re tired and are costing your organisation money. But it’s not all about the money, you’re also damaging your leadership brand.
High energy, enthusiastic leaders are generally perceived favourably, but it’s hard to be high energy when you’re burnt out.
How Doing All the Work Can Backfire
Many leaders have a stoic mindset, where they accept too much work and wear it like a badge of honour.
However, I have seen quite a few situations where leaders have been overlooked for promotions because they look like they aren’t handling their workload, or they are seen as too valuable in the role to move out.
In one case, I coached a leader who had been with his organisation for many years. He was very resourceful, always being given tough assignments to manage new teams and fix issues that had been caused by other leaders.
In effect, he was a troubleshooter, working hard to fix all the issues. He’d take on all the challenges, and wouldn’t push back on any work. However, he always stayed in the middle management layer, never moving above it.
He was told that he was too valuable to help fix the troubles of the organisation, so he couldn’t move into more senior positions. They needed someone who was going to get stuck in and fix problems at the ground level.
The next time you feel tempted to save the day and take on a lot more work, be careful of the message you’re sending out into your workplace.
Remember that being overwhelmed with work means that you won’t have time to do other valuable leadership tasks, like supporting your team, planning or taking more strategic action.
3. Be Strategic to Build Your Leadership Brand
It’s easy to believe that building a leadership brand is all about doing good work. Of course good work is part of the equation, but it’s not the whole story.
Building a strong leadership brand also involves being strategic about the relationships that you form and how you promote yourself.
Doing good work helps, but no leader can do everything by themselves, and if nobody knows about your good work, it won’t help your cause.
Many leaders enjoy solving problems as part of their work. However, many don’t really enjoy networking or building relationships. These are important parts of building your leadership brand.
A lack of strategic focus is common when a leader has progressed in their career by being good at their core tasks. For example, the Nursing Director who was simply awesome at nursing, or the Analytics Manager who was the best at data analytics.
Unfortunately, “What got you here, won’t get you there”, as they say. If you want to progress further in leadership, you may need to focus more on strategic action.
Build Relationships to Strengthen Your Leadership Brand
There are many “strategic” things you can do. But in this case, I’m going to focus on building relationships. Building relationships is important for leaders, because it helps you create a strong network.
A strong network will help you to:
- Be aware of events in your workplace, so you’re “in the know”
- Get help when you need it, from other leaders
- Find opportunities for you to help others
- Build support for what you’re trying to accomplish with your team; and
- Raise awareness of the good work you are doing.
Some of this may feel intangible. That is, building relationships may not directly result in an amazing promotion or instant fantastic results. But over time, your network will grow and you’ll be more connected, becoming part of the fabric of your workplace.
When you’re a key part of your workplace, you become harder to replace, become connected to opportunities and you become more valuable.
Learn More: 6 Critical Strategic Skills All Leaders Need.
4. Develop and Support Your People
I see lots of leaders who focus on “managing up”. They work hard to please the boss, and they don’t focus much on their team. They believe that this is the way to appear more helpful and valuable.
Of course it is very important to build a good relationship with your boss. However, focusing only upwards is a risky strategy.
Your team’s performance will generally be better if you’re available to support them. If you can develop your people, they’ll be more self-sufficient and effective. Over time, they’ll be able to help develop other team members so you can focus on other aspects.
Leaders who are unavailable for their teams are running the risk of poor performance, and looking like they aren’t paying attention.
People talk – and there are those pesky “360 assessments” too. These assessments ask for feedback from many people around the leader, including their manager, colleagues and team members. If you’re focusing more up, and not down, you might just see some poor results which can damage your leadership brand.
Good leaders are like the opposite of a tornado. They leave a trail of satisfied, engaged and happy people behind them, instead of a trail of destruction.
5. Communicate Effectively
I’ve mentioned communication earlier in this post, but it’s worth focusing on it specifically. A strong leadership brand usually involves good communication.
When you can get your message across and people can easily understand it, they’re more likely to get on board with your ideas. If you listen attentively and understand the concerns and interests of others, you’ll be able to craft your approach to suit them.
A good communicator doesn’t need to use slick marketing speak or buzzwords. You don’t even really need to have an extremely polished approach. A lot of good communication comes down to being authentic and paying attention.
Many leaders are busy and distracted. You see them looking at their phones and watches instead of listening to the people who are trying to speak to them. Making an effort to be present in meetings and conversations is a good first step.
When people perceive you as a good listener and being attentive to the needs of others, you’ll build a positive leadership brand. Not only will you be more pleasant to deal with, you will learn a lot about your stakeholders which will help you to navigate your environment.
It will be impossible to please everyone all the time, as people have different communication styles and preferences. A simple principle that has helped me is that of “no surprises”.
In other words, you give people enough notice to let them know what is happening and when, and you’re less likely to create a problem. And if you do, you’ve got enough time to solve it.
Learn More: 5 Communication Skills Every Leader Needs.
6. Tackle Team Issues – Quickly
Last, but certainly not least, you need to tackle team issues quickly when they arise. A leader’s reputation can go down the drain fast when they are seen as useless or ineffective because they avoid addressing ongoing issues in a team.
Team issues that are allowed to linger cause multiple problems. First, they demotivate other members of the team who may be performing well. Second, they ruin team performance as people start to focus on the people problem rather than actually doing the work.
It’s simple really. When there are issues, start tackling them as soon as you can.
Sending a signal that you are dealing with a problem is a good way to be perceived as someone who understands and cares about team dynamics, motivation and performance.
Learn More: 6 Steps to Deal With Behaviour Issues In Your Team.
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