Creating and sustaining a personal brand is an important, but overlooked, professional/ career enhancing strategy. Unfortunately, many leaders often consider it to be fluff, just as they hold similar misperceptions and negative judgments about the worth of running a business on a foundation of company values, vision, and mission. Remember Glenn Liopis’s findings < > about the percentage of people who value the importance of a personal brand:

  • Less than 15% of people have defined their intended personal brand.
  • Less than 5% are living it consistently at work.

Clearly, many professionals – even leaders by title, judge “cultivating your personal brand” to be self-promotion. Don’t make this same mistake!

So, what is personal brand and why is it important? Your personal brand defines you – perhaps as a leader, a maven (expert), an innovator, a mobilizer — or potentially…an “unknown.” Positive events, such as a promotion or industry accolade, can support a spike in your personal brand; similarly, negative events will quickly diminish it. In addition, a strong positive personal brand is built and maintained from consistent action (demonstration) that reinforces what you stand for and represent.

A strong personal brand makes you distinctive, enhances your reputation, and maximizes your professional influence. Similar to a brand for a company, it creates an expectation. In this case, an expectation about you (versus a product or service). It creates a promise of what other’s can and should expect from you. Brand perception (positive or negative) helps or hinders people’s decision making. And, in the case of a personal brand, it can be reflected in people’s openness and willingness to quickly trust and support you or as their blatant resistance to you and your best efforts. A negative brand perception or even an unknown brand perception means people have no idea what to expect of you!

So, instead of asking, Do you have a defined personal brand,? A better question is, What can you do to develop and distinguish yours? Base your response on what you are doing now, aligned to your vision and future goals.

Here are some further tips to help you answer this question:

  1. What’s most important to you? What are your key values?
  2. What differentiates you? It may be interests, experience, and credentials.
  3. What is your vision for your career/role in the next 12 to 36 months? What are the key goals that will enable you to move toward your vision?
  4. What do mentors and role models provide as feedback on your performance and character. Reflect on the commonalities and differences in their responses.
  5. Define for yourself, based on your reflection and learning, what you want your personal brand to be? How do you want to be known and remembered? What do you stand for? What can others expect from you?

Building and refining your personal brand means taking the time to reflect and respond to feedback and support. Integrate this activity into your annual personal leadership or career/professional development plan.

Obviously, it’s much easier to “go with the flow” and “go along to get along” than to be mindful about and attentive to your personal brand. Yet these “default” approaches present you as a follower rather than as a leader. When a leader becomes a follower, respect is lost, frustration increases, and influence diminishes. When you fail to distinguish yourself from others, you allow yourself to be an unknown. Others will then define your brand for you – and it may or may not be positive or correctly reflect your aspirations.