I have a confession to make. I’m not proud of it, but it’s who I am. For my entire adult life, I’ve been a political junkie. Unlike most people, I enjoy the process of selecting our national leaders every four years in the United States. I know, I know — it’s sick. I need to find a hobby.
Now, in case you’re concerned that I’m going to write about politics, don’t worry. I’m a leadership consultant, not a political consultant, so my focus is analyzing the leadership of the candidates. I like to determine if there are any lessons we can learn as they may apply to the way we lead those around us.
Although it is very early in the political process for the 2016 elections, I’ve tried to find what I believe to be a significant foundation of leadership in any person — authenticity. In all aspects of life, I like to know who I’m following, and it helps if I know my leader is authentic. We may not see eye-to-eye on the issues, but I want to know where you stand and know that you’re consistent. In the end, I may not agree with you but at least I can respect your consistency. This is the case in politics and business.
Quite frankly, I am amazed at the lack of authenticity of most candidates for public office. Many candidates seem to change day-to-day based on what the polls say. It seems that one day they’re nice, and the next day they’re mean because the polls indicate the voters think they’re too nice. And when they keep changing, we never really know who they are. In a nutshell, their inconsistency causes us to not know what to expect from them.
In the marketing world, when a company communicates to us what to expect from their products or services it’s called a brand. Politicians communicate to us what to expect from them based on their personal brand. Now, when a company has failed to educate us about what to expect from its products and services, we become skeptical of their message. The same is true for politicians, and the same is true for us as leaders.
The people we lead in our personal and professional life are influenced by our personal brand. We all have a personal brand, and it’s reflected by who we really are, shown to others by what we do and how we do it. Therefore, if you want to be an effective leader (regardless of what you do for a living), you must develop a personal brand that is clear, complete, and valuable to others. In the end, you must communicate to people what they can expect from you.
As you consider your personal brand, I encourage you to keep these three things in mind:
(1) It doesn’t matter what you think
Your personal brand is not determined by what you want it to be. Your true personal brand is determined by how you live. It’s determined by what you do and how you do it. Based on that, do you know what your personal brand is? Do you know what people say about you when you leave a room? Ultimately, your brand is not what you think about yourself. Your brand is what other people think about you.
(2) A personal brand is not a mask
Perhaps one of the reasons most politicians struggle with their real identity is because they “paint” themselves to be something different every other day. I’ve learned over the years that a personal brand is not a veneer. It’s not something you paint on for others to see. Your personal brand is who you are (based on your values), and it’s communicated every day through how you are. And when it’s based on your values, it simply can’t change with the polls.
(3) Your brand is all about relationships
When many people think of a brand, they think of a “look” or a logo. Your personal brand is not about a look. Your personal brand is about the relationships you’ve developed from the emotional connection others have with you. In reality, it’s not about who you think you are. Ultimately, it’s what people say about being associated with you.
If you want to be a strong leader, you must know what personal brand you’ve created. You must ensure that your personal brand resonates with those people with whom you want to build strong relationships. When your behaviors are inconsistent and your values seem to shift based on what’s convenient, your personal brand has failed. But when your behaviors are consistent and your values are strong, you are on the road to developing and communicating who you are through your personal brand. That is real authenticity.
© 2015 Clint Swindall — Clint is the president & CEO of Verbalocity, Inc., a personal development company with a focus on leadership enhancement. For information about how he can enhance employee engagement in your organization, please visit www.verbalocity.com, or contact him directly firstname.lastname@example.org.