A good article on defining your leadership brand was recently published in Harvard Business Review. The five steps offered are truly anything but easy. But, isn’t that the case with most things that are worth doing?
One key step that I think is missing in this article is generating objective, confidential 360-degree feedback from people who know you … not just internally, but externally. Colleagues, bosses, board members, clients/customers, third party vendors, friends, and yes, even family.
Your brand (and yes, you have one even if you don’t think you do or even if you haven’t been intentional about fostering it) is how others perceive you. Are you viewed as a visionary and strategic CFO or as the CEO’s right-hand man? Does the perception of others who interact with you on a regular basis align with your own perception? If not, it is then that the question becomes, how you want to be known? And, based on how you are wired along with your strengths, passions, and values, what do you need to get there?
Can you generate honest feedback simply by asking people face-to-face? I don’t think so. But without that valuable input, how can you know what your next step(s) should be?
Soliciting external feedback is, in my opinion, critical because of the authenticity factor. Unless you understand how people outside of your professional life view you and how that aligns with the internal perspective, it’s difficult to assess how truly authentic your brand is. Living out your authentic leadership/executive/personal brand is easy … it’s who you are. Living behind a carefully manufactured professional facade becomes much more of a challenge, particularly in today’s Google-able world.