Leadership Branding

The job of a leader is changing. Branding and storytelling used to be the sole responsibility of the marketing department. Today leadership branding has become a core skill that most leaders need to give some conscious attention to.

“Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make but about the stories you tell” – Seth Godin

The most powerful and memorable brands connect with fans on a deep emotional level. Think of iconic brands that don’t even use words but whose logos command premium prices and deep loyalty. 

Similarly, leaders who are known simply by their first name have created a valuable brand, and brands bring influence. Maybe your goal doesn’t include building the name recognition of Beyonce or Drake. There is still a lot of value you can create by investing effort into branding.

Every brand says something about value

Behind every brand there is a promise. Brands that promise something that people want–and deliver on the promise–grow in influence.

We value a brand and what it represents because of associations. We have come to associate good things with a brand, we anticipate positive things from it.  When a brand lets us down, it loses value in our eyes. When it happens on a wide scale a brand fades or dies.

“Personal Branding is all about your unique promise of value and what you bring to the table.”  – Dr Sarah David

We can gain some valuable insights into leadership branding from value science. It should be no surprise that we bring up science because a big part of the Leadskill brand is that we base our work on good science.

Value science is not well-known as a discipline, but Dr. Robert Hartman pioneered the field when he introduced formal axiology. Value science (formal axiology) gives us some powerful ways to understand how value is created, enhanced and subtracted in a wide range of interactions.

For leaders, it’s reassuring to know that branding is not just an art or a flair that you may or may not have. You can learn branding and base it on sound science. 

Every leader has a brand

It’s also important to face the fact: every leader already has a brand.

It’s part of your reputation. It includes what people say about you. Your brand is what you’re known for. As you think about building a brand, realize first that you already have one. You just may not have been very conscious before now about creating it.

The good news is that brands are flexible and respond well to some conscious attention and shaping.

Your Leadership Brand

Brands hold power when they connect with a WHY or a purpose. Your own purpose or “why” is a strong place to build your brand. 

“You have to understand your own personal DNA. Don’t do things because I do them or Steve Jobs or Mark Cuban tried it. You need to know your personal brand and stay true to it.” – Gary Vaynerchuk

On a personal level it is very human to doubt that the world really wants my brand.

And you’re partly right. People don’t value a brand that is phony. Unless you’re willing to take some risks, to be vulnerable and real, most people are going to ignore your brand unless there’s something else compelling them to pay attention.

Your story and experiences are interesting and compelling. They just have to connect with people where they are and invite them along for the journey.

How to Build Your Brand

More than 25 years ago before there was Leadskill, we worked with professionals on branding. Entrepreneurs, stock brokers, creatives, restauranteurs–we focused on marketing and often did quite a bit of research. In fact our firm was called Research Associates! 

We noticed that strong brands were built by leaders with a vision. They didn’t always build in public or get personal recognition for their efforts, but a leadership mindset was key.

We’ve held classes, coached leaders and worked on branding for a few decades now. Here are some of the basics that make the biggest difference. 

  • You’ve got to do the work. Building a brand means you have to start sharing your message and do it many times. In the beginning you have a lot more misses than hits, but you can’t escape doing the work–a lot of work.
  • Start with a story. It doesn’t always have to be your own story, but stories are compelling and elemental. Humans find them hard to resist. The skill of storytelling is worth mastering.
  • Listen for and to the feedback. When people respond or react to your branding, it doesn’t always stroke your ego.  Very often it doesn’t. The lack of feedback also tells you something. Keep doing the work. Feedback is not the same as criticism. Leaders always have critics. Listen for the truth that’s always embedded in solid feedback.

This is what we do. Want some help?

Whether it’s individual coaching, cohort based classes or consulting projects, we have all kinds of ways to work with leaders on their branding. We’d love to hear your story and what you want to build. Since you’ve come this far, let’s take the next step and have a real conversation.