by Caroline Leach

What do people say about you when you’re not in the room or on the video call? How would your sponsor or supervisor describe you when promotional decisions are being made? When rising talent is “boss shopping,” what makes your leadership style stand out?

These questions all speak to your personal brand as a leader. The concept of personal branding exploded onto the management scene in 1997. Tom Peters wrote a Fast Company cover article, The Brand Called You.

“Regardless of age, position, or the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding,” Peters wrote. “We are CEOs of our own companies: Me, Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand call YOU.”

Your personal leadership brand is your reputation as a leader. It’s the values you hold dear and how you express those in your actions. It’s the value you bring to an organization.

You can actively shape your personal brand by how you interact with people every day. Here are three strategies to get started.

Get Feedback from Colleagues

Working with an executive coach is one way of synthesizing feedback about how key colleagues see your leadership strengths and weaknesses. An executive coach can also help you interpret data from a 360 exercise.

Another way to get feedback is what marketing strategist Dorie Clark calls the three-word exercise. Ask 10 colleagues what three words they would use to describe you. Look for patterns in their responses. These indicate your strengths and the basis for your personal brand.

Align Your Actions with Your Brand

How do people describe you? What are the common threads in their descriptions? You can use these personal brand indicators to focus how you show up in the world every day.

For example, take someone who is identified as innovative, courageous, and collaborative. They can look for opportunities to emphasize those traits. It might be in a year-end self-assessment for performance evaluations. It could be a response to the question, “what are you working on?” Elements of innovation, courage, and collaboration can be part of every communication.

Show Up on Social Media

Company leaders who are active on social media are brand ambassadors for their organizations and themselves as leaders. During the pandemic, your presence is more important than ever.

In a 2020 Brandfog study of U.S. employees in diverse companies, 82% said they’re more likely to purchase from a company whose leadership communicates openly on social media about their efforts during the Covid-19 crisis.

How to get started:

  • Pick one or two social media channels. LinkedIn is for business leaders. Twitter is for thought leaders. Instagram is for connecting with next-generation talent.
  • Choose two or three subject areas where you want to be known as an expert. They could be your industry, your functional areas, and your leadership philosophy.
  • Create content and curate other’s content in your subject areas to share weekly. Comment on content in your subject areas and by people you want to get to know.

By actively shaping your personal brand, you can take charge of how you are seen as a leader. Ultimately, that makes a world of difference for your career, your team, and your organization.

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