Like it or loathe it, you have a brand. Even if you haven’t set out to create a personal brand — you may have worked hard to blend in and avoid the spotlight — others have formed perceptions of you, based on what you wear, how you enter a room, your email tone, and a plethora of other interactions that all create moments of truth about brand ‘you’.
Having a personal brand can be a challenging concept for Australia’s C-suite. The tall poppy syndrome casts a long shadow, while corporate conformity has a habit of dousing individualism. But honing your personal brand does not mean having a big ego, or being someone you’re not. Nor, especially if you are a CEO, does it mean shining a light on yourself instead of your organisation. Rather, your brand, and that of the business, must find a way to work together.
YUM! Brands CEO Greg Creed has forged his personal brand on being what he describes as his ‘authentic self’. The affable Australian in charge of some of the world’s largest fast food brands reminded the audience at a recent QUT Business Leaders’ Forum: “You don’t want to be like every other CEO. You want to be just like yourself!”
So where does brand ‘you’ fit in your business world? How can you be your authentic self and still enhance the reputation of your organisation?
Brand is a function of perceptions. You can’t control others’ perceptions of you but you can influence them through language, image and behaviours.
Understanding your personal brand and articulating what you want to be known for professionally can help you be more intentional about how you interact both within and outside your organisation.
Internally, as a leader, you have a responsibility to model the organisation’s values, rally employees around the company’s vision, equip and empower others to make decisions, and create opportunities for them to flourish. It might sound like a paradox but understanding how you want others to perceive you — and understanding there can be various curated versions of you — can help you be a more authentic leader, with greater presence and stronger engagement.
Externally, your personal brand should help position your organisation at all moments of truth, but also express an essence of you — your values, your leadership style, what inspires and excites you. So often leaders focus on high-profile moments, such as media interviews and keynote speeches, to shape their image, when reputation is just as often forged in the micro moments — body language in a meeting, small talk at a cocktail function, a greeting in a lift.
Part of honing your personal brand is articulating what you stand for professionally, creating an opportunity to carve your own lane, while lighting a path to your organisation’s mission and vision.
We recently worked with a senior academic to articulate three key messages that echoed his aspirations for higher education in Australia, while positioning the ambitions of his institution. Similarly, we helped an executive harness her energy expertise to elevate her organisation’s problem-solving capability.
Leaders should be looking for the opportunity to create a personal position that reflects their authentic self, but also enhances their business strategy. Get this alignment right and you create the chemistry to establish greater credibility and trust, strengthen relationships, and create more meaningful connections with those who matter most for both your success and that of your business.