Being clear on how you want to be known as a leader, how others want to describe you and the contribution you want to make to the world is a great starting point for your leadership journey. The ability to articulate this is what I call your leadership brand. It’s like any brand: how you want people around you to know you for. Some may want to be seen as a servant leader, others to be known for their achievements and still others for their ability to be a pillar of support for their community.

I’ve spent quite some time thinking about what I want to be known for and the impact I want to make on people around me. I started with half a page, capturing the answers to these questions and after trying to distill the most important elements I was able to come down to two words that capture the essence of my personal leadership brand:

Pushing Boundaries”

I want to be known as a leader who constantly challenges the status quo, pushed himself and others beyond what they thought they were capable of and did things that had never done before.

In my leadership work I now help others define their own leadership brand and over the years have developed and fine-tuned a process that seems to work and assist leaders of all kinds and shapes to help articulate what they want to be known for. In this leadership discovery process I guide leaders through 4 stages and want them to:

  1. reflect on their past,
  2. capture where they stand to do
  3. identify where they want to go and
  4. imagine the contribution they would be able to make.

1. Your Track Record

Looking back I want leaders to identify moments, jobs, positions, projects where they were in, what Mihaly Csikszentimihaly calls:

A Flow of a highly focused mental state in which they’re completely absorbed by the activity at hand

For some great inspiration check out his Ted Talks on the concept of ‘flow’. I encourage leaders to go back to stages in which they performed in this stage of flow, where all their efforts seemed effortless and impact was beyond expectations. Most of us have experienced this only a couple of times in our lives and I encourage leaders to go back and identify what made them come into that state by answering:

  • What was the environment that created this?
  • What was the task at hand that inspired this?
  • What did their bosses and organisation do to enable it?

It is important to understand and then articulate how going forward you can create the circumstances for yourself to re-enter this state.

2. Your Feedback

The next questions I ask leaders in their reflection of the past is to reflect on the feedback they have received. Either formally through 360 feedback processes, peer reviews, informal conversations with colleagues, bosses, mentors or family members. You need to know how you come across to them, what they value in how you work and act, and what are the things they obverse that could possibly have a negative impact? Reflect on what people say, take it in and use it to understand what you want to keep and what you would like to change.

3. Your Influencers

We all have people that we look up to, people who have shaped us into who we are today. Looking backwards it’s important to identify the people that have shaped your life, shaped your view of what success looks like and select the characteristics you admire and want to emulate in them. You have to know why you admire your mentors because deep down you want your leadership brand to be very much (at least for the part that you admire in them) to be like theirs. Pick up the elements from your mentors that you want to inculcate in your own leadership brand.

When I help leaders identify their shapers and influencers I often ask them whether the people they have identified know what kind of impact they’ve had on their lives. More often than not the answer is ‘not really….’. If the same applies to you, why not send your mentors a short note (a hard written card, email, LinkedIn or Facebook message) expressing your gratitude for the impact they’ve had and how you admire them for it? I promise you that by doing that you’ll not only make their day but yours as well. After all, displaying gratitude is a very powerful practice in making yourself happy!

Next week I’ll continue our joint leadership brand development journey by having you look into what elements of your current state of leadership branding you want to keep and build upon.

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