The professional world is changing so quickly that your next career may be in a field that has yet to be invented. One of the ways you can prepare for future career challenges is to start now to build up your leadership brand.
Your leadership brand sets you apart from the competition. It reflects both who you are and what other people think you can accomplish. It’s a measure of your personal strength and professional ability, and says something about your likelihood of success in a challenging situation.
To build your brand, identify the personal qualities you want to be known for. Then take steps to develop those qualities. This process can help you define and live your brand:
Step one: create your leadership vision.
Your leadership vision summarizes the personal qualities you want to bring to your professional life. It’s a list of the leadership characteristics you want to demonstrate and be known for.
It’s worth taking some time to identify the leadership qualities that truly matter to you. Here are three steps that can help you craft a list that feels authentic:
- Notice brands you love. Think of several consumer brands you trust and would recommend to a friend. For each one ask yourself: what makes this brand great? For example, I am a Starbucks fan, although their coffee isn’t my favorite. What I love is that Starbucks is reliable, friendly and generous with perks like WiFi and comfortable seating. So I would list qualities like consistency, friendliness and generosity. Consider which of these brand qualities you would like to have reflected in your reputation as a leader.
- Think about leaders you admire. List five leaders who have influenced you, whether they were teachers, colleagues or historic figures. Then list their important personal characteristics. Here are words and phrases many people use in describing leaders they admire:
- Supportive and empowering of others
- Self aware
- Always learning and growing
- Ask yourself. Imagine that several of your colleagues are talking about the quality of your work and the kind of contributions you’re making on a project. What would you like to hear them saying about you? Add those words to your list.
Step two: study your list.
When you have a list of the leadership qualities you want to be known for, post it in a conspicuous place. And carry around a copy. Look at your list frequently, including each morning. When you’re faced with a challenge or decision, imagine leaders with these same qualities and ask: what would they do?
Step three: build new habits.
A key to building your brand is practicing the kind of behaviors that will earn the reputation you want. Each month, pick a characteristic to work on. Think of a specific behavioral change that would demonstrate or bolster that characteristic. For example, if you want to build a better reputation for reliability, create a new practice of arriving at every meeting on time. It will be easier to build a new habit if you keep track of your performance. So make a log of every meeting in the month and note whether you were on time. Be precise. If you were late, say by how many minutes.