The word “brand” is usually applied to a product or service. The American Marketing Association defines it this way: “A brand is a name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.” Creating such a brand, or “branding,” is usually a deliberate and carefully crafted strategy. The process is designed to create a perception of what the product is, what it stands for, and what makes it special compared to other products on the market.
Substitute the word “leader” for “product” and you have identified a new trend: the need for leaders to develop a personal brand. As with a product brand, a personal brand defines who a leader is and what differentiates him or her from others. Increasingly seen as a hallmark of good leadership, a personal brand can help to define and guide a leader’s actions and contribute to his or her success.
Developing a personal brand is not something to be done lightly. It is best undertaken with a solid knowledge of the traits that will generate results. This type of knowledge can be obtained through programs such as Ohio University’s online MPA. An online master of public administration can help candidates answer the question of what is a personal leadership brand and prepare them to work in any position that falls within the scope of public administration.
What Is a Personal Brand?
So what is a personal brand? Before defining what it is, we need to understand what it is not. Today, many leaders make the mistake of thinking that relentlessly promoting themselves through social media outlets, such as LinkedIn and Facebook, is the key to success.
The truth is that such self-promotion misses the point, according to the Glenn Llopis management consulting group. “[Leaders] believe LinkedIn and other social media channels can immediately increase their market value for their personal brands rather than recognizing that the process of developing their personal brands is a much bigger responsibility; a never-ending journey that extends well beyond social media and self-promotion,” the organization explains.
If self-promotion is not the vehicle, then what is? It is a much more thoughtful process that begins with careful reflection. Paul Larsen of Emergenetics, an organizational development company, summarizes the key steps with the acronym VOICE:
- Live your Values
- Create your Outcomes
- Use your Influence
- Be Courageous
- Wrap it all up in your unique Expression
The core of all five steps, says Larsen, is communication. “Become a stellar communicator. Create followers. Contribute your talents and capabilities. Build and reinvent your personal brand so you remain renewed and refreshed. By taking that stand, voicing your opinion, making yourself known, communicating what matters to you … you are expressing who you are with your voice. You are expressing yourself as a leader,” he says.
Steps to Take
The website BrightWork lays out the process to developing a personal brand in five steps:
- Identify Your Values. Who you are and how you treat others influences your ability to be an effective leader. What do you stand for and what will you not stand for? What do you want to be known for? What role did your values play in key successes or failures in your life? What values do you admire in others? Remember, your brand must be authentic, so do not attempt to adopt values you don’t actually hold.
- Understand Your Current Brand. You already have a personal brand — everyone does. You earned it automatically through your previous actions and behaviors. But your current brand may not be the one you want. Ditching your old brand starts with assessing how others perceive you. Ask for feedback from your manager, teammates and family regarding your communication and decision-making styles, strengths and weaknesses. Note common themes and areas for improvement.
- Decide Where You Can Make a Difference. Your brand must encompass your unique contribution to an organization or project. Think about your current impact and the results you hope to deliver. Also consider who will benefit from your work, such as customers, investors, employees and the company. Focusing on this path will help you say no to distractions.
- Craft Your Personal Mission Statement. A personal mission statement is a clear, purposeful promise to yourself, your work colleagues and your family. It answers the big questions your team may ask — who are you, what do you stand for, and how do you work? Craft your statement, then follow it.
- Live Your Brand. Brilliant leaders are strong and consistent; poor leaders are tentative and unreliable. Build trust in your brand by living it every day. But do not assume your brand will stay the same forever — it won’t. Take time to reflect, learn and evolve as your goals and circumstances change. Tweak your brand as necessary to shift with the times — and remain the best leader you can possibly be.
About Ohio University’s Online Master of Public Administration (MPA) Program
Ohio University’s online MPA program is dedicated to preparing professionals for a career in public administration. Through the University’s prestigious Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, students gain an overview of the scope of public administration work while building skills in policy, finance, leadership, business, management, and communications. The school occupies the No. 12 spot in the SR Education Group’s 2019 Best Online Colleges Offering MPA Programs ranking.
The program, which is 100% online, offers four concentrations: Crisis and Emergency Management, Public Leadership and Management, Non-Profit Management, and State and Local Government Management. Students can finish their degree programs in as few as two years. For more information, contact Ohio University now.
Brand definition – The Branding Journal
What a personal brand is not – Glenn Llopis Group
VOICE – Emergenetics International
Steps to take – BrightWork