Your Leadership Brand
Are you managing your reputation or is your reputation managing you? As a leader, one of your most important assets is your reputation, because the research consistently shows that people only follow those whom they admire or respect (preferably both). So the bad news is, unfortunately, you don’t own your reputation – the community does. If you really want to understand your impact and your influence to expand your ability to lead, you must be aware of your reputation and what you can do to manage it.
Leaders and managers often have the benefit of work place assessments and 360 reviews in order to get some insights into how they are known and perceived by others and, through instruments like these, can discover some areas of opportunity for developing themselves. However, assessments and evaluations can lack the insight or the detail that you might be looking for. And, let’s be honest, don’t you sometimes just click “4” because it’s easier than thinking too hard about it?
One way to get more insight into your reputation as a leader is to conduct a “reputation audit.” It is a short set of questions that will allow you to know yourself better.
The Reputation Audit
- What can you count on me for?
- What can you not count on me for?
- What advice do you have for me?
- Is there anything else?
You can ask these questions individually, with teams, by email, by blind surveys, or ask a trusted colleague or a coach to conduct the survey for you. We recommend that you ask multiple individuals in your network to give you feedback including people you lead/manage, your peers, and your leaders/managers. It is often helpful to have a couple of personal references, as well. It is also helpful to have someone to debrief the information with. Some people summarily dismiss positive feedback. Some people get derailed by negative feedback and don’t know how to process it. Sometimes feedback says more about the person giving it than the person receiving it. It is helpful to have someone like a mentor or a coach to work through the feedback with. The key is to look for themes that come up again and again. If only one person says something, it’s usually about them. If five people bring it up, it’s likely about you.
And, that’s just the first step. The more you know about your reputation, the more you can manage it. You can ask yourself how you want to be known and what you need to do to promote your chosen Leadership Brand. Instead of allowing the community to tell you who you are, you can tell them who you are and how you want to be seen and how they can work most effectively with you. It is helpful for you to reflect on your Leadership Brand and start promoting it in your network.
Your Leadership Brand is essentially made up of stories and information about you that you want to be known for.
Your Leadership Brand
- Origin Story – Why you do what you do where you do it. Why you chose your profession. How and when you got started in your career, at your company, in your role, etc.
- Strengths – What you’re good at and what you can be counted on for.
- Weaknesses, Pitfalls, and Requests for Support – What your weaknesses or pitfalls are and how others around you can support you. Give people specific information or permission on how to communicate with you when you are in trouble and how to support you in your areas of weakness.
- Style – Your leadership style, learning style, or any assessment type of information that you know about yourself (examples: MBTI, DISC, Enneagram, Learning Style, etc.) that helps people understand how to work best with you. It’s good if you can boil down your style to a single word.
- Communication Style and Preferences – How you communicate and how you like to be communicated with. Are you direct and straight-forward? Do you need to talk things through to find solutions? Do you prefer data, charts, graphs and information to make decisions? Do you have an open door policy? Do you prefer face-to-face, email, phone calls or text? It can also be helpful to say what doesn’t work.
- Recommendations – What recommendations do you have for people working with you? Please don’t schedule meetings for first thing Monday morning. I need a cup of coffee before anyone talks to me and wants a coherent answer. What do you expect at meetings?
- Personal Information – Is there any relevant personal information you can share with your team? Tell about your family and any impact that has on your schedule or your work commitments. Share information about your hobbies: cooking, running marathons, reading, playing Dungeons & Dragons, etc? Do you have any passions or guilty pleasures: food, chocolate, wine, TV shows, sports teams, etc. Do you have any allergies: gluten, pollen (please don’t buy me flowers), hay fever (I’m not sick. I’m just allergic to spring), etc? Do you have any pet peeves? Tell people instead of letting them accidentally discover them.
- Knowing the brand you want to be known for helps you project it. It also allows you to be more intentional about “expanding your brand.” If you want to be taken more seriously at work, you might want to show up on time, sit in a prominent position, dress the way successful people in your organization dress, and limit joking around during meetings. If you want to be seen as more personable and approachable, you might want to dress a little more casually, take breaks, get coffee, invite people out to lunch, and show up early for work and meetings to have time to connect with people.
Managing your reputation and your brand is a vital leadership task that most people ignore—to their peril. The best part about all of this is that managing reputations is contagious. When you take your reputation seriously, so will others. And a company is only as good as the reputation of its people.