Becoming an executive leader is akin to reaching the Olympics: you are at the top of the game, and the competition is tough; so tough that a split second separates the glory of stardom and lucrative contracts with falling in oblivion, yet so close from the goal.
This is a reality most high-performing executives are completely aware of; if anything, it’s something some even enjoy and get energised from. Executives thrive in leading businesses to the next level and deliver shareholder value time and time again.
Yet, the overwhelming majority of executives are overlooking and letting a crucial business behind: themselves.
How many executives do you know who regularly invest in their personal brand? How many executives do you see taking part in podcasts, penning thought leadership articles, being in front of the camera, sharing their message?
The answer, as you will know, is “not that many”, and chances are, you probably aren’t one of them either. And that’s a big mistake.
The curious case of executive self-neglect
It is rather surprising to think that leaders taking care of organisations with hundreds or thousands of employees are all over the key factors that make their organisation grow. They are attuned with their operating model, their financial health, and their market positioning. They have to, if they want to succeed. Yet, most don’t actually take the time to stop to take care of their personal brand.
Personal branding is, essentially, applying all those marketing concepts you will be acquainted for, but to position and promote you, as a professional. It’s about carefully crafting how you come across, telling the world your unique selling proposition and what makes you a better choice than your competitors.
But time is at a premium. It’s all well and good to want and invest in one’s brand, but what’s in it for executives? How can they justify investing in their personal brand to the detriment of other activities?
Today, you’ll discover all you need to know about personal branding so you can make an educated decision on whether you should make time for it (hint, we strongly believe you should).
First off, what personal branding isn’t
Usually, when execs hear about personal branding, they immediately think of social media influencers, those people who are paid to share their lives and promote the most varied types of products on their social media profiles. While they are building their personal brand, this isn’t personal branding. Personal branding does not mean you are career switching into an advertising poster.
Likewise, it’s not about becoming famous and getting millions upon millions of followers. It is, however, about getting known. It is about being discovered by the right people. Like in many other instances, quality trumps quantity.
Finally, a whole new job, personal branding is not. While it may at first seem like it is a huge time commitment, it could merely be a minor tweak to some of your existing routines and processes. While it does take time, if you are strategic, you can minimise your time involvement and 80/20 your way into a great brand!
Ultimately, what’s in it for you?
Personal branding, in a nutshell, boils down to a single thing: intentionally communicating what you bring to the table. That’s all there is to it.
Obviously, you can (and should) go into defining what is your USP, who your target audience is, what you want them to do and so many other features that anyone with a basic knowledge of marketing would understand are crucial to cover, but, at its highest level, this is the simplest way of summarising a personal brand.
Still, why should you care?
- One brand that reaches two audiences
As an executive leader, you have an internal audience who wants to hear from you. They want to know what you are thinking about, what bets the organisation is making, and where you see the next biggest opportunities for the organisation to tackle.
However, your colleagues aren’t your only audience. By building your personal brand, you will be building, growing, and building trust with another, far wider audience: virtually everyone else. From past colleagues, clients, and suppliers to prospective employers and clients or industry peers, building your brand out in the open allow you to get known and be seen as the reference that you are by a wider group of people, many of whom don’t even know you exist.
Each person outside of your organisation who discovers you via your personal branding represent a fleury of new opportunities. Each person within your organisation who gets to know what you think, represent a new potential ally to your goal, a colleague more bought in into your vision, or someone who can help you refine your thinking.
Everything we explore next is valid for both internal and external audiences and is there to plan the seed rather than providing an exhaustive list of benefits to extract from building intentionally your personal brand.
- Build credibility
Few things are more powerful than demonstrating to your teams (and prospective employers) that you do know the field you are talking about. There’s a lot to be said about proving misconceptions wrong, especially once you get to your level of seniority, where you don’t have the luxury of getting hands on and overtly technical in what you do. What’s the best way for a CTO to prove they still get tech? To share their expertise with confidence.
When you don’t share your expertise, you are leaving it unknown. People will fill in the blanks based on what information they do have available to them, and when they have nothing, the blank will remain just that, blank. This means that your teams may wonder if you know what you are talking about, they may even question (at least among themselves) your judgement, and your next employer may not reach out, as they’re not certain you would fit the bill.
Build your credibility, build your opportunities.
- Build trust and familiarity
The biggest human currency one can have is trust. This is what our entire social system rests upon. No one will follow you, buy from you, or hire you unless they trust you. At the most fundamental level, you need to be a trusted leader if you want to extract the most from your teams.
How to build trust? Again, by communicating. By creating noise where there once was silence. By sharing your thoughts with them, by going on video and updating them on where things are going. Be visible. Communicate. Be seen. All those touchpoints will gradually increase trust, as you will provide, time and time again, evidence that you are reliable and dependable.
- Creating new opportunities for your organisation and yourself
It is not rare, on social media, to see some CEOs having a bigger audience than their companies. Elon Musk and Ricard Branson are the two most used examples, but you can see that pattern repeating again and again.
The social profiles of executives within an organisation are FAR more powerful for generating opportunities than those of the brand themselves.
By having a strong brand, organisations will come to yours because they want to deal with you, because you build that credibility and expertise. This is the business justification as to why you need to build your brand: it will support the brand and pipeline building efforts within the organisation.
But the same applies to you – you will be surprised at how many opportunities will come to you because of your personal brand. You will have doors opening to you that you didn’t even know existed. You may form friendships and collaborations with industry peers you admire, you may be invited to events you always hoped to attend, and your next employer may be nearer to you than you’d think.
Personal brands create opportunities for both the organisation and yourself. What shrewd business person wouldn’t take advantage of this?
On top of those key areas, there are several more ways a personal brand benefits you, for example
- Scale your impact. More people seeing your message means more people you can influence and have a positive impact on
- Improved communication. The more you write, the better you write. The more you speak to the camera, the more comfortable you become, on front of the camera
- Forced strategic view. Personal branding strongarms you into defining how you want to be perceived, remembered, and thought of. Becoming intentional about this will only help you become a better executive
Personal branding is investing in you and your career
What it comes down to is whether you believe in your potential to achieve more; and whether that belief is strong enough for you to invest the time, thought, and energy to build your personal brand intentionally. While we can’t say it is risk free, the upside of building a brand are huge, both for you and your current employer. So, what are you waiting for? The best time to build your personal brand was in 2010… and we know you know how the sentence finishes..