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Everyone wants to be a leader within their industry. The ability to get in front of people is paramount, that is, first — to be noticed. Second, to be considered, and finally, to make a difference. The world is changing, and anyone and everyone is self-proclaiming guru status and setting up shop on social media to fight for the coveted most important asset in today’s business landscape: attention. It is becoming more obvious that we live in a three-second world, where our attention span resembles that of a goldfish.
You either have it or you don’t. If you don’t get attention fast and frequently enough, business doesn’t survive. If you do, you must be innovative and disruptive enough to keep it. You must make a significant enough difference to stand out in a pool of similarity. This difference is more widely recognized in the business, branding and marketing world as differentiation, and this key determinant will be the topic of this article.
Brief highlight: It is imperative not to compete — that isn’t a strategy anymore. In this changing world, you must differentiate yourself at all costs. It’s not enough to have a great product or a specific service that is phenomenal. People are more distrustful than ever, and they are bombarded with marketing messages and chatbots at every interval. Thus, differentiation and a personal brand are becoming more and more prevalent as the keys to a strong, successful and sustainable business model.
The rise of the personal brand
The corporate brand has become the scourge of business, and the personal brand has fought its way to the top of the throne for the constituents’ votes and admiration. Let’s view the music world momentarily and search out verification of the proposed new reality. There was a time when Def Jam and record labels like Warner Bros. held sway, but now the power has swung the pendulum in the direction of the artist with a personal brand, with powerhouse personal brands like Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Rihanna and Kanye West dictating the musical landscape, earning billions of dollars and being able to sway public opinion in their favor through a tweet.
What does this have to do with you, and why is it this way? What happened? Well, two things happened, and in this article, I will try to shed some light on both occurrences. Covid-19 happened, and it changed the public’s perception of the corporate brand. As corporate titans found themselves stuck, unable to pivot and were ultimately toppled, individuals had the ability to pivot, take to the social media streets and have a massive and frequent impact, multiple touchpoints, an omnipresence and an outstanding opinion on matters. The subsequent shutting down of the free world also distanced people from their usual routine and corporate interaction, and a new normal emerged.
With this new normal came a serious advancement in tech and AI particularly. Leveraging this technology in their favor, personal brands and entrepreneurs were able to support the people and show incredible resilience, bravery and character in the face of what appeared to some as the end of the world. What else happened? Corporate brands sent people home, and personal brands gave people jobs. With more technological advances, there were so many opportunities for the newly jobless to supplement their income online that a huge percentage of America’s workforce never returned to work, because #1 — people were still uncertain about the dangers, and #2 — middle-class Americans found out just how much money could be made in alternative ways, and sometimes 10X revenue while enjoying a newfound freedom never entertained as possible before.
Now, how does it work?
Establishing your personal brand leadership works on the job or out of the job. It is about (again) commandeering the most important commodity in the world right now: attention. A couple of components of the personal brand leader’s armory include a brand story, a world mission, an ideal client and target market. Translated: This shows up as a person with a unique view on the world and purpose for their lives. Because of what they have been through, seen or been a part of, learned, etc., they can tell their origin brand story in 30 seconds, three minutes, three hours or turn it into a three-day workshop or event.
They are possessed with the need to add value, they believe that they are commissioned to make a difference in their business or in their position, and they serve and overdeliver with excellence at all touch points. They also have a preferred ideal client or ideal client population that they serve, and it is to cause a rift in the old regime of a world no longer deemed relevant or sufficient to them.
You see why this works in or out of a formal position?
When personal brand leadership shows up in an organization, it shows up as a stellar employee who is easily distinguishable from the crowd, knows why he or she is there, and knows where they came from and where they’re going. They do not need to be micro-managed and are usually deeply engrossed in their own personal, professional and leadership development program that is deeply personal to them, so they will be heads and shoulders above the rest of their peers, be insatiably intrinsically motivated and have an empowering optimistic outlook — and their performance will be remarkable.
They will dress a few pay grades above their current positions and assume extra responsibility. They are coachable, eager to grow and usually in school or getting credentialed consistently without needing to be told or shown what to do, how to do it or where to go. They are extremely open and growth-minded.
When personal brand leadership shows up in business or takes the form of a CEO, it shows up as someone who knows — and goes to great lengths to share — their origin brand story. They usually speak, write and market their viewpoints and the key differentiators of their brand and products and services. They wrap their stories around their services, and you can feel the electricity of their passion and energy as they speak. They, too, are usually immaculately dressed and positioned as the only viable option as opposed to the best-kept secret. They completely believe in what they are servicing, so they never feel like they are selling, nor do they come across that way. They are mentioned with words like authentic, passionate, obsessed, charismatic, convincing, persuading and capable.
They are also transparent about their shortcomings and failings in life, which makes them more endeared to their audiences and deemed as trustworthy. They turn losses into lessons and perceive obstacles as opportunities. They are cheerful and put people over profits, value over valuation, ethics over economy, change over currency and meaningfulness over money. They are not afraid to take the unpopular viewpoint if that is what agrees with their MVPs — morals, values and principles. They help others, believe in and foster team spirit and success, eat last (as Simon Sinek says), and they lead by example.
These are just a few of the ways that personal brand leadership shows up in the workplace and in business. As a new leadership style, it is the power of the personal brand connected to leadership development, and its four underpinnings are:
These are the ranks from which Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Jay-Z, Kanye West and Donald Trump emerge, as well as many of the young leaders in enterprise and entrepreneurship around the globe. It is a force to be reckoned with and one that is easily recognizable and referrable. It’s highly admirable and recommended for personal and professional reasons alike.
Why it matters
In closing, the world is changing … it has already changed tremendously and shows no signs of returning to its former shape, size or standards. Therefore, with new obstacles come new opportunities, and with new situations come new solutions. Personal brand leadership is an asset, a tool to be used in and out of corporate offices and employment to become magnetic at home and abroad, to go from unknown to full-blown, from career crickets and slow- to no-growth to digits and explosive growth and noticeability. It will help entrepreneurs, professionals and emerging leaders to grow their visibility, credibility and profitability. It will also help them turn their competence into confidence and go from the best-kept secret to the only viable option.
Further diversifying the face of leadership, personal brand leadership can help a person to see their significance. It is inclusive and equitable; it is ethically charged and empowering. People feel a new level of comfortability in their skin when they sense that their culture, beliefs, strengths and weaknesses are assets as opposed to liabilities.
When encouraged to Brand You, and not what you do, people begin to view themselves as partners in a new way of being. Realizing that they are the brand could be an incredible turning point in the lives of those less fortunate, immigrants and those otherwise left out of the American Dream.