Why personal branding should be a top priority in business leadership
When you think about branding, you might imagine a business or other entity building a positive public image. And it’s true—big organizations such as McDonald’s, Adidas, and Microsoft spend much money humanizing their brand and appealing to customers. It’s not just businesses that benefit from branding, however. If you, as a business person, aren’t building a brand around your skills and expertise, you’re missing out on an excellent way to establish yourself as a business leader in your industry. In this article, we’ll explore what personal branding for leaders looks like, why they should invest their time into building a brand, and ways they can strengthen that brand over time.
What does personal branding look like in 2023?
Your personal brand reflects your professional (or personal, depending on the field) identity. It allows customers or clients to relate to you and trust your abilities. Consider how some popular brands utilize their founders to further their notoriety. Apple’s Steve Jobs, for example, has long served as the icon of new and exciting technology with an elegant flair. His iconic black shirt and jeans became just as notable as the company’s brand name, and many people bought into the man just as much as they did the product. As a result, people continued to flock to Apple for innovative, well-made (and expensive) products. Without Steve Jobs representing the company’s image, establishing Apple as a leading technology company might have been more complicated.
Personal branding must involve your story and place within the industry, not just your image. Your brand demonstrates to your audience who you are, what you value, what you believe, and what you are willing to do to meet your goals and uphold your standards. No matter what field you are working in, your goal should be to position yourself as a genuine person who is genuinely excited and passionate about what you do. Digital marketers, for example, typically brand themselves as vibrant, dynamic, and confident. They often share bits of their knowledge with their audience and strive to establish themselves as go-to names in their industry.
Your personal branding should reflect the skills and characteristics necessary in your specific field. If long-term research and professional communication are critical, you might strive to present yourself as an intellectual with a love of learning who gives themselves professionally. You can do the latter in some ways, but one example is adopting somewhat formal clothes in public or presenting yourself in public (including interacting with followers on social media via posting vlogs or images). Over time, the sentiment of professional formality will become ingrained into people’s perceptions of you, furthering the recognition and respect you receive.
Cult of personality
Another element of personal branding to consider is the “cult of personality.” Some people use charisma to attract people to their brands—in these cases, the person may be more important than the product. You can see this on social media, perhaps especially on Twitch and YouTube. Video creators and live streamers are experts in personal branding, and their fans often watch primarily because they like the person rather than what the person is streaming.
Whether or not this is a good fit for your professional goals is a decision only you can make, but it is an element of personal branding that can be incredibly effective as you build a career and improve your skills and expertise. Sometimes, a loyal base of followers who enjoy your personality is a great way to expand your reach and find more customers. Sometimes, however, it doesn’t translate directly into sales. Consider your audience, goals, and current performance to decide if this method of personal branding is the right choice for your needs.
Why does personal branding matter?
In addition to the examples above, there are some reasons why you should invest in personal branding as a business leader. Business leaders can often benefit from an effective personal brand, especially if they build it early in their careers.
Business leaders should first invest in personal branding to build their credibility. It has always been challenging to establish yourself as an expert as it is today. Thanks to the rise of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, anyone can claim to be a “specialist” in any field and potentially attract an audience. Relatively few of them can back up that claim with action. If you can show people that you have the skills you’re promoting and can do what you say you can, you are much more likely to establish yourself with a positive reputation and gain respect from other people in the industry.
What does all of this have to do with personal branding? It’s simple: people are more likely to remember charismatic people or have an exciting story. Having the skills you need to demonstrate your expertise in the field in question is critical and gives you a leg up on the competition, but if you don’t follow those skills up with something interesting that sets you apart, your chances of building a group of loyal followers are low. Having something that differentiates you from others is always a good idea. This could be anything. Perhaps your name is particularly iconic, for example, or maybe you have a compelling rags-to-riches story. Whatever it is that sets you apart, capitalize on it.
Think about the last person you encountered. Were they new to you? If so, what do you remember most about them? The answer will likely be a characteristic, be it exceptional charisma or expertise in the industry. If you can’t remember anything, save their face; you’ve just learned the power of personal branding. With an engaging personality and plenty of know-how in the industry you are promoting, you are far more likely to catch and maintain other people’s attention if you are selling some brand.
Once you have someone’s attention, you’re ready to “wow” them with your ability in the industry. Take that personal branding and use it to emphasize your expertise and experience.
Align your brand with your profession.
If you have ever tried to fit into a new job and work with new people, you know it can take time to ingratiate yourself into corporate culture and attract the respect you need to make lasting changes as a business leader. Building a personal brand is an excellent way to speed up this process if the brand image is coherent with your job responsibilities. If you work in the medical field but build a brand image that emphasizes unhealthy lifestyles or advocates for things such as skipping work, you are likely to find little appreciation for your brand. On the contrary, that kind of branding can be detrimental to your career and stifle your growth instead of stimulating it.
The cards will fall into place when you align your brand with your career. You will have the attention of other people in the field and, eventually, make enough of a name for yourself that your good deeds and effective leadership precede your presence. This is a great way to build enough respect to convince others that your ideas are right and worth following. This gives you a better ability to become the responsive and highly effective leader you want to be.
Don’t be frustrated if you have difficulty building the image you want. Remember that actions are a lot more important than words, and if you continually act in ways that promote the image you’re showing to the world, you’ll start to build a positive reputation for yourself.
Few leaders make great names for themselves if they don’t have the trust of the people they lead. You can see this reflected in just about every industry and niche. If you want to show the people around you effectively and create change in organizations, the trust of your employees is critical. Change is tricky to implement permanently, and if you don’t have at least some of your workforce on board, it will be tough to manage expectations.
Your personal brand can help inspire other people to trust you. Craft an image that accurately displays your commitment to the industry and demonstrates your leadership values. For example, showing people that you care about their well-being and growth is essential just as much as company profits. This can significantly impact employees’ willingness to go above and beyond for you.
How to grow your personal brand
Finally, let’s talk about how you can build your personal brand. From education to everyday behavior, we have plenty of tips to help you get started in your industry.
Get the proper education.
The first thing you should do if your goal is to become a business leader is pursue the proper education. Not only is this important on an efficient level, as a solid education gives you a solid foundation to build future knowledge, but it also opens up new doors for you in the professional landscape. Suppose you graduate from a well-known university for producing influential professionals with drive, skills, and determination. In that case, your resume receives more attention than those without high-level, respected qualifications. The potential to interact with faculty and fellow alums is another way the proper education can benefit you even after graduation.
Both essential steps are finding the right school and picking the right degree for your professional goals, including your desired salary. If you want a more advanced degree, for example, you should have some job lined up that justifies the amount of time and money you will invest into your education. For example, considering the difference between a Ph.D. vs. DBA salary is vital to ensure you choose a degree program that suits your goals and needs. You must select the right university once you’ve found the right program. Universities such as Marymount University are established in business education and have experience turning out excellent graduates ready for the job market. Accredited schools, such as Marymount, have had years to refine their education processes and are guaranteed to give you a high-level education that will further your career.
Make sure your brand image makes sense.
We touched on this above, but one of the most important factors to consider when building a brand is the field in which you work. If you create a personal brand that aligns with your industry, you are more likely to find a receptive audience willing to give you a shot. Before you start defining yourself online, consider who the ideal employee in your field is. What are their talents and skills, and how do they act in the office? If your goal is to become a leader or to strengthen your current leadership position in anticipation of advancing to a new role, your brand should align with that perfect employee.
If you aren’t sure where to start, that’s okay. Sit down and consider the type of leader you want to be. Are there any people you look up to in your industry? If so, why? Consider weaving some of those characteristics into your brand if it makes sense. Please write down the ideas you have for your personal brand and make sure that they align with your industry and your goals.
Draw inspiration from other leaders.
Similarly to the tips we gave above, think about the kind of leader you want to be. Is there another professional that exemplifies the type of team you want to build and the image you want to project? Why not spend some time looking into their history and experience in the field? Learning from the best in the industry is a great way to improve your abilities and refine your leadership style.
You can draw inspiration from other leaders in a few different ways. First, and the most obvious, you can use their leadership style to inform your own. If a person you look up to is known for being a kind and compassionate leader, for example, those are principles you can include in your career. Another area where other people can help define your brand is via image. Setting aside the specific leadership style in question, what leader or other professional has the kind of image you want to portray? While we aren’t suggesting that you take their style or copy their mannerisms, using the characteristics you admire might be helpful when building your brand.
Take the step
Don’t be afraid to reach out to people for help. If you know someone with a good leadership style you’d like to exemplify, consider contacting them for more information about how they’ve progressed in their careers. Sometimes, someone else’s experience is the best tool we have at our disposal regarding effective leadership techniques.
Are you interested in learning more about personal branding and how it impacts leadership? Use the information above as a primer to help guide you as you do further and more detailed research. If you want to become a leader, start your brand as early as possible so you have plenty of time to build it as you ascend in your field.
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