Understanding where you come from and where you stand today are important components for your Leadership Brand. Your past molded you and what you value today guides how you behave now. Both are key to ensure your leadership brand is rooted in who you are.

We often want to develop our leadership brand because we aspire to grow, have more impact and change some elements in our leadership style that prevent us from moving forward. Take for example a CFO that I recently coached. He was extremely successful and had become the youngest CFO in his industry. He joined his company at its inception in a junior position and over the past decade grew to lead the finance function. Due to his understanding of the business, intellect, passion and work ethics he was punching well above his weight, impacting not only the finance function but the business as a whole. People expected him to be the next CEO. The only thing that held him back was that he had a strong machiavellian streak in which his progress and intellectual superiority translated into disdain for his colleagues. And the worst thing was that he was not able to keep his opinions to himself. Obviously this lead to serious collaboration issues between him and the rest of the team, negatively impacting the results of the organisation at large.

Luckily in my coaching conversations I was able to help him understand how his behavior impacted his relations with his team members, how this effected the overall business results and how this would negatively impact his own career ambitions. By trying to help him understand that his past behavior would not help him in where he wanted to go, we created a platform to discuss the leader he wanted to become, the impact he wanted to have and the results he wanted to achieve for himself and the people that matter to him.

In doing so I helped him reflect on whom he wants to be through 3 exercises:

1. Use Your Imagination

In looking for a solution I’ve found it powerful to look at the options through 2 different lenses by asking these questions:

If there were no limitations, what would I do?

If there were severe limitations what could I still do?

If you want to articulate your own leadership future it would be great to consider what you would be doing if you have not limitations. Ask yourself the question:

“What would you do if you had unlimited time and resource and knew you could not fail?”

Maybe it is not realistic and you don’t have the resources, capabilities or you have commitments that prevent you from choosing this direction now, but at least you know what you would do if their were no limitations and you could at least start thinking if not working towards that direction.

2. Think About Your 80th Birthday

In our hyper-fast, -connected and -competitive world, we often focus on getting results this year, quarter or even week. It’s often about immediate gratification. Of course you know that in order for you to build a leadership brand and make a lasting contribution it’s not about tomorrow, or about next year, or even about next 5 years. It’s about what you achieve during your life time. To my surprise very few people think through on what they want to accomplish, how they want to be recognized and the impact they want to have on the people they love towards the end of their active live.

To help leaders think through this and start working today on how they want to be remembered by the end of their professional life I always ask people to imagine their 80th birthday. Imagine the people that are going to be there and what people would say if they reflect on your life time of contributions and impact you’ve made. Reflect on,

What would people that are present at your 80th birthday say?

3. Weigh Your Leadership Brand and Life Balance

The last element I touch upon when I help people think through their leadership brand is how they can create a better balance in their lives. At a certain stage in life, most leaders question their work-life balance. We wonder if it’s worth spending so much time at work, earning so much money for the ones we love and whether we’re able to spend quality time with them. We also think about how to grow if we just focus on spending time with colleagues from the same function, company, industry and not learn from other people with other interests, views and perspectives. It’s all about wanting to create a healthy balance between your physical, emotional, social and mental self in your leadership brand.

So in articulating where you want to take your leadership brand think what you would do if there were no limitations, think with the ‘end in mind‘, what you want to be remembered for and make sure you achieve and maintain a healthy balance in your life to ensure you get there. It’s a tough journey but these are the only ones that are truly worth travelling.