Who we as leaders are - and how we're perceived by just about everyone - is our personal brand. Brand is so much more than the corporate images of a waving mouse, moons and stars, and mermaids. Brand is the personification of organizational culture in ways that should represent the personality of the organization.
Think of some of the dynamic leaders in the business world like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and John Lasseter. These men are personified leaders with identifiable personalities. The organizations they represent are divided by people-eras distinguished by personal brand.
Brand and Personal Identity
Brand, or cultural identity, is a set of learned assumptions of a group and can be shared between members. Productive and high quality organizations have cultures of collaboration and openness. They are, in a word, friendly. Only in friendly and open environments can members feel free to express opinions.
How group members interpret culture is what defines how they maneuver through external adaptation and internal integration of concepts. If culture is understood and personified by leaders, organizational members will more likely work in ways supportive of organizational productivity and quality.
Leader Behavior and Brand
How leaders behave indicates how successful cultural precepts will transfer from mission statements to employee working environments. Each of us as leaders must understand our roles in the cultural make-up of the organization, the ethical components of leadership identity, the knowledge that leadership processes are embedded in systems and that systems interlock and that emotional sensitivity and self-critical analysis are essential for developing personal sense of presence.
Our every move is scrutinized by fellow workers and they will gladly point out our faults. Understanding our roles in the bigger picture of brand personification will (could) help us succeed.
Local supervisors, those with the most direct connection to operational ranks, are most responsible for communicating organizational cultural messages to employees. When local supervisor behavior is consistent with the emotional intent of a supportive organizational culture, employees remain committed to the organization. The benefits of creating rewarding environments are increased morale, better workmanship, and increased quality.
Who you are as a leader is only a part of the branding triad. So much of our personages are equally vested in relationships and environments. Relationships are a given in that unless we work in a cave, people-interactions are inevitable. The third, less obvious factor, in our leadership triad is our working environment. This is where organizational culture lives.
Think of the brands, or environments, of the following organizations: Disney, McDonald's, Coca-Cola, and The Royal Air Force. Each is identifiable through culture and brand. However, if front line employees in these fine organizations don't see that culture personified through leader behavior, they won't perform at peak levels.
In a recent statement to my students, I wrote how personal brand can set them apart from the masses:
Find your strength, that one identifying nodule that sets you apart from the masses, and make it stronger. Find your customers/fans/cohorts/friends and do everything you can to keep them. Life's too short to mess up perfectly good opportunities. Think of brand, of your brand. How does your personal brand stand out? Frankly, I see each of you not as names on paper, but as the bass player, the composer, the harpist, the drummer, and the actor. Those are your brands (and, dare I say, your personal stereotypes).
In the end, it's our behavior that stands out and identifies eras of leadership. Organizational leaders must be aware that their behavior is the most important factor related to employee morale. Feelings of community among employees correlate to positive perceptions of the job and organization.
Our emotional sensitivity to the issues is a factor in creating such supportive cultures. The benefits: corporate identity, emotional awareness, emotionally intelligent leadership, and feelings of social community.
Being a good leader is so simple; it's surprising there are so many bad leaders.