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How to Improve Your Leadership Brand

Gaining a reputation as an effective leader requires high-level vision and frontline execution. Here are three ways to strike that balance.

The way you behave on a daily basis—no matter how insignificant an interaction might seem to you—will help you build your brand over time. You can use your personal brand to highlight the leader in you. Taking time to define and improve your unique leadership traits will elevate you in your field and in the eyes of your team.

Wondering where to start? Unearth your authentic strengths. Strong brands are rooted in reality, not imitation. Next, consider what your team needs to know about you in order to follow you, specifically that you know what you’re talking about, you’re forward-thinking, and you can work well with others. To create that brand equity, you have to walk the talk. Below are three strategies that will help you do just that.

1. Showcase your personal proficiency.

You don’t have to be the most knowledgeable expert on your team to be a strong leader. But you do need to show that you’re more than capable of the tasks at hand. If you do your job well, your team will recognize and respect the skills you bring to the table. “It’s hard to ignore results, and when you’re striving for the respect of your colleagues, one of the best things you can do is show you’ve got the right stuff,” says career expert Jennifer Winter in an article for The Muse. Meet your deadlines, communicate effectively, and put in the extra effort when it’s required. Those convey fundamental brand traits for leadership.

Also, ask for help when you need it. You should have the humility and self-awareness to recognize that even though you’re in a leadership role, you don’t know everything. There is still always more to learn, and you won’t be the best at everything. Check in with yourself at the end of each week to assess how well you did your job and where you can improve. And don’t forget to ask your team members for their feedback, too.

2. Look to the future.

Gallup studied 2.5 million manager-led teams around the globe and found that successful managers motivate employees through a compelling vision. In other words, your team will be more engaged, and therefore more effective, if you adopt a forward-looking mentality. You may have worked your way up the company ladder, moving through the ranks thanks to your prowess for execution. But while execution happens in the present, a vision lives in the future.

To lead your team in the right direction, you need to have a crystal-clear vision of where you’re headed. Each week, carve out time to consider the big picture. Analyze where your team has come from, assess where you are now, and dream about where you could go next. Working with your team closely and understanding the obstacles they face is vital, but it’s just as important for you to help them envision the destination, always staying informed enough to answer the question, “Where are we going?” If you’re known for visionary thinking, your personal brand will exude leadership.

3. Manage and motivate employees.

You may not be the head of HR, but you’re still responsible for the professional development of your current employees with an eye toward developing your future leadership teams. Effectively motivating people involves walking a fine line, and providing robust talent development along the way is the key. You have to show your staff that you know what they’re capable of and you expect the best from them, but your goal is to help them achieve their personal best, not to work them to the bone under some narrow definition of “efficiency.”

To set balanced expectations for your team, make communication a priority. Too often, leaders isolate themselves behind closed office doors, preferring to work on the business from a distance rather than actually engaging with their employees. “Don’t hide,” advises Dhiraj Sharma, founder and CEO of Simpplr. “Communication is a key part of leadership; make sure you’re heard.” To stay visible and encourage your team, Sharma recommends holding informal town halls and site visits, sending frequent companywide updates, and posting recurring communications on the company intranet. As an added bonus, your employees’ personal brands, not just yours, will flourish.

A strong personal brand is imperative to anyone’s business success, but for leaders, the required brand traits include a special combination of humility and self-awareness, as well as the capacity to plan and execute innovative plans while effectively motivating a team and inspiring confidence in clients. It all adds up to a message that exudes magnetism.

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