Labels vs. Personal Branding
My 2014 release “Stand Out!” provided 40 lessons I’ve learned about life and leadership. On one such topic, I begrudgingly accept the use of personal branding and wrote:
It is not enough to know who you are and what niche you might be able to fill at your company or in society generally. You also have to bend your reputation so that it matches your intended niche.
The power that comes with any reputation-building, brand-conscious activity can be both positive and negative, and a good leader looks to minimize those negative outcomes.
Your “brand” can reinforce your strengths and make them easier to identify in people’s minds when new opportunities come up. This is especially helpful if your strengths are unique at the company and are well-suited for those opportunities.
On the flip side, the brand can reinforce your weaknesses and limit your roles to that which you are already seen as doing well. That is when an actor becomes “typecast.” That is when your boss “pigeonholes” you as being a shy number-cruncher, and gives you assignments that fit that role – without giving you opportunities to grow and shine. In short, that is when a brand becomes something far worse – a label. That is, a short-hand excuse for those in a position to influence your career to decide that you will only be as good as your present skill set.
Labels can be stifling to the more ambitious, to our inner leaders, as they close the door to certain opportunities that might present themselves. The last thing a true leader really wants is to become “labeled,” particularly when that label is as a “lone wolf” or “wanting too much to be liked” or when it is used to turn a perceived strength, such as being “too honest or encouraging” into a weakness such as “too close to staff.”
I guess what I’m saying is, you have to be careful to manage your brand, to protect its positive traits and remove anything that can prevent you from succeeding. The higher up the chain you go, the less it matters what you know or what you do, but more how you handle your relationships with superiors, peers, and staff. That’s why your brand, your ability to stand out, can help, as long as you don’t let yourself get labeled too easily as only being single-dimensional in your focus.
Look to build your weakness and guard against typecasting by playing into contradictions. If you’re thought of as an introvert, act more extroverted. If people perceived you as a social butterfly, work to gain credibility in subject matter and more nerdy things. Play with those contradictions without losing sight of your core branding.