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Personal Branding – The Opportunity & Risk

Personal Branding – The Opportunity & Risk

Last month marked the 11-year anniversary of my dad’s death. He was 63 and had been battling cancer for a few years. The last few days of his life were a roller coaster for me and my family. When the doctor gave us the news that it would happen soon, my mother, sisters, and I pretty much lived at the hospital. On the evening of July 25, 2002, sitting by his hospital bed, I watched him take his last breath. It was a surreal experience for me. I was a little down, but wasn’t sad. If I was emotional, it was because my mother and sisters were. I just kind of sat there, supporting my family, and soaking it all in. Though it was an unfortunate event, I wasn’t shocked. To be totally honest, I was surprised it didn’t happen sooner than it did. See, my dad died when I was 24, and for the first 21 years of my life, he was a heavy smoker and hard-core alcoholic.  In my mind, this was the logical outcome of his actions and lifestyle, as was my lack of emotion.

He was very active with me when I was little, taught me how to catch a football, and made it to all of my games. But the memories that are burned into my head and the legacy he left with me is the heavy smoker and hard-core alcoholic who treated his wife and family like crap and was hammered every Christmas.

That is my father’s brand.

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What is your brand today?

If you had the opportunity to interview people around you to find out “who you are,” what would they say?  What words would they use to describe you? What kind of person would they say you are?  Everything you say and do builds your brand.

What brand are you building?

You hear a lot about branding in the business world.  Major organizations like Pepsi, Coke, Nike, McDonald’s, Target, and Walmart give a great deal of attention and spend a ton of money building and preserving their brands. They know consistent branding that associates them with positive things is the key to their success.

Guess what?  It’s the key to your success, too!

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What do you want your brand to be?

When helping people articulate and develop their personal brand, I coach them to consider two things:

  • Values (what’s important to you)
  • Passions (what excites you)

You want your brand to be an honest and genuine reflection of you: what’s in your head and what’s in your heart.  If it isn’t an honest and genuine reflection of you, you aren’t being true to yourself and likely setting yourself up for failure.

For example: I wear my emotions and spirit “on my sleeve.” From the time I was 24, I knew I wanted to spend my life coaching, counseling, speaking, teaching, and/or training. It is extremely important to me (values) that I am providing value to those around me and there is nothing more exciting to me (passion) than working with people and helping them reach their goals.  Throughout this journey I’ve tried to do other things, conform to others’ expectations, and show-up a different way, and it doesn’t work.

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Opportunities & Risks

Being more intentional with your personal brand provides great opportunity, but can also be risky.

When you’re living your life in alignment with your values and passions, you naturally become more confident, and people notice. They might not be sure what to think at first, but the more honest, genuine, and consistent you are, the more they will trust you.  The more honest, genuine, and consistent you are, the greater impact you will have on the people and environments around you. Take a look around you. The average person deals with enough uncertainty, confusion, and insecurity.  Your consistency will give them certainty, consistency, and confidence in you.

For all the great opportunities that being more intentional with your personal brand can give, there are also some risks.  There will be some haters.  There will people who are close to you who are used to you being a certain way. They will see you changing and growing, and they won’t like it.  Now, if you are changing, growing, and becoming a more confident person and they don’t like it, that should be a sign of whether or not you want them in your life. Just know “haters gonna hate.”  Another risk is that this takes commitment. If you are not willing to make a real commitment to your personal brand, you might want to slow down. It goes back to the uncertainty, confusion, and insecurity I referenced above. People have enough of that in their lives. There are a lot of big talkers out there. If you try to show up, but don’t live your brand or are inconsistent, you are just going to be another example of uncertainty, confusion, and insecurity in their mind.  Once you are there, that is a tough hole to climb out of.

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Your personal brand really comes down to how you want to show up in the world and the impact you want to have.

What is the first thing you want people to think of when they hear your name?

If you are not living your life in alignment with that answer, it might be time to evaluate your personal brand.

Your values and passions are a great place to start!

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Last Updated on March 15, 2019

How to Be a Leader Who Is Inspiring and Influential

How to Be a Leader Who Is Inspiring and Influential

When I began managing people 15 years ago, I thought having a fancy title was synonymous with influence. Over time, I learned that power is conferred based on likeability, authenticity, courage, relationships and consistent behavior. When leaders cultivate these attributes, they earn power, which really means influence.

Understanding influence is essential to professional growth, and companies rise and fall based on the quality of their leadership.

In this article, we will look into the essentials of effective leadership and how to be a leader who is inspiring and influential.

What Makes a Leader Fail?

A host of factors influence a leader’s ability to succeed. To the extent that leaders fail to outline a compelling vision and strategy, they risk losing the trust and confidence of their teams. Employees want to know where a company is going and the strategy for how they will get there. Having this information enables employees to feel safe, and it allows them to see mistakes as part of the learning journey versus as fatal occurrences.

If employees and customers do not believe a company’s leadership is authentic and inspiring, they may disengage, or they may be less inclined to offer constructive criticism that can help a company innovate or help a leader improve.

And it is not just the leadership at the top that matters. Middle managers play a distinct role in guiding teams. Depending on the company’s size, employees may have more access to mid-level managers than they do members of the C-suite, meaning their supervisors and managers have greater influence on the employee and the customer experience.

What Is Effective Leadership?

Effective leadership is inspiring, and it is influential. Cultivating inspiring and influential leaders requires building relationships across the company.

Leaders must be connected to both the teams they lead as well as to their own colleagues and managers. This is key as titles do not make a person a leader, nor do they automatically confer influence. These are earned through trusting relationships. This explains why some leaders can get more out of their teams than others and why some leaders experience soaring profits and engagement while others sizzle out.

Eric Garton said in an April 25, 2017, Harvard Business Review article:[1]

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“… inspiring leaders are those who use their unique combination of strengths to motivate individuals and teams to take on bold missions – and hold them accountable for results. And they unlock higher performance through empowerment, not command and control.”

How to Be an Inspiring and Influential Leader

To be an inspiring and influential leader requires:

1. Courage

The late poet Maya Angelou once said,

“Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.”

Courage is required in the workplace when implementing new strategies, especially when they go against professional norms.

For instance, I heard Lisa TerKeurst, bestselling author and founder of Proverbs 31 Ministries, explain her decision to move away from her company’s magazine. While the organization had long had a magazine, she saw a future where it didn’t exist.

In order to make the switch, she risked angering her team members and customers. She took a chance, and what started out as a monthly newsletter, has grown into a multi-dimensional organization boasting half a million followers. Had Lisa not found the courage to change the direction of her organization, they undoubtedly would not have been able to experience such exponential growth.

It also takes courage to give and receive feedback. When leaders see employees who are not living into the company’s mission or who are engaging in behavior that may undermine their long-term success, one must risk temporary angst and speak candidly with the colleague in question.

Similarly, it takes courage to hear constructive criticism and try to change. In business, as in life, courage is necessary for being an inspiring and influential leader.

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2. A Commitment to Face Your Internal Demons.

If you feel great about yourself, enter a leadership position. You are likely to be triggered in ways you didn’t think possible. You are also likely to receive feedback that may leave you second-guessing yourself and your leadership skills.

The truth about leading others is that you get to a point where you realize that it is difficult to take people to places where you yourself haven’t gone.

To be an influential and inspiring leader, you have to face your own demons and vow to continually improve. Influential leaders take their personal evolution serious, and they invest in coaching, therapy and mindfulness to ensure that their personal struggles do not overshadow their professional development.

3. A Willingness to Accept Feedback

Inspiring and influential leaders are not afraid to accept feedback. In fact, they actively solicit it. They understand that everyone in their life has a lesson to teach them, and they are willing to accept it.

Inspirational leaders understand that feedback is neither good nor bad but rather an offering that is critical to growth. Even when it hurts or is an affront to the ego, influential leaders understand that feedback is critical to their ability to lead.

4. Likability

Some people will argue that leaders need not worry about being liked but should instead focus on being respected. I disagree. Both are important.

When team members like their boss and believe their boss likes them, they are more likely to go the extra mile to fulfill departmental or organizational goals. Likable leaders are moved to the front of the line when it comes to being influential.

Relatedly, when colleagues feel management dislikes them, they experience internal stress and can spend unnecessary time focusing on the source of their manager’s discontent versus the work they have been hired to do.

So, likability is important for both the leader and the people she leads.

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5. Vulnerability

Vulnerability is critical for being an inspiring leader. People want the truth. They admire leaders who can occasionally demonstrate vulnerability. It promotes deeper relationships and inspires trust.

When leaders can showcase vulnerability appropriately, they destroy the illusion that one must be perfect to be a leader. They also demonstrate that vulnerability is not a dirty word; they too can be vulnerable and ask for a helping hand when necessary.

6. Authenticity

Authenticity is about living up to one’s stated values in public and behind closed doors.

Influential leaders are authentic. They set to live out their values and use those values to guide their decisions. The interesting thing about leadership is that people are not looking for perfect leaders. They are, in part, looking for leaders who are authentic.

7. A True Understanding of Inspiration

Effective leaders are inspirational. They understand the power of words and deeds and use both strategically.

Inspiring leaders appropriately use stories and narratives to enable the teams around them to see common situations in an entirely new light.

Inspirational leaders also showcase grit and triumph while convincing the people around them that success and victory are attainable.

Finally, inspiring leaders encourage the teams they lead to tap into their own genius. They convince others that genius is not reserved for a select few but that most people have it in them.

As explained in the article True Leadership: What Separates a Leader from a Boss:

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“A leader creates visions and motivates team members to work together towards the same goal.”

8. An Ability to See the Humanity in Others

Inspiring and influential leaders see the humanity in others. Rather than treating their teams as mere tools to accomplish organizational goals, they believe the people around them are unique beings with inherent value.

This means knowing when to pause to address personal challenges and dispelling with the myth that the personal is separate from the professional.

9. A Passion for Continual Learning

Inspiring and influential leaders are committed to continual learning. They invest in their own development and take responsibility for their professional growth.

These leaders understand that like a college campus, the workplace is a laboratory for learning. They believe that they can learn from multiple generations in the workplace as well as from people from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Influential leaders proactively seek out opportunities for learning.

The Bottom Line

No one said leadership was easy, but it is also a joy. Influencing others to action and positively impacting the lives of others is a reward unto itself.

Since leadership abounds, there is an abundance of resources to help you grow into the type of leader who inspires and influences others.

More Resources About Effective Leadership

Featured photo credit: Markus Spiske via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Business Review: How to Be an Inspiring Leader

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