Leadership Brands: How to Position for Purpose, not Perception

Sabrina Prioletta March 7, 2024

I was recently in a meeting with a highly successful executive coach.

He not only created a business model that worked, but did so in the most authentic way possible. His extensive experience leading complex projects demonstrated that he was willing to risk more than his competitors. He pushed beyond the limits of what others would consider ‘normal’ and designed a life that is a true reflection of his underlying values.

As he is in the process of rebranding, he asked for my recommendation on how to position the brand. After all, many others in his field had already used the same metaphors and analogies that he built his brand on.

Was he still relevant? Unique enough?

 

When asked “how should I dress in the upcoming keynote that I’m delivering to executives?”  My answer was undoubtedly “dress the part that best mirrors your brand.”

You see, the ambiguity was NOT what differentiates his brand. He had a crystal clear identity that echoed the very fibers of his DNA.

The ambiguity was “do I dare show up as myself”.

 

Most of us have been in situations where we adapt to our environment. We dress for the audience. We play a part that isn’t a true fit. But when faced with an opportunity to anchor one’s brand in the public eye, the thing you should always wear is what feels most like you.

Whether that’s a lumberjack shirt, leather pants or a 3-piece suit.

 

What do you wish to be known for?

The question leader brands should ask themselves “what do I wish to be known for?” pertains first and foremost to ones’ traits or values.

Are you driven to live adventurously? What would you be willing to fight for?

What words naturally follow:

I am ___________

I believe in ___________

When you begin to reflect at this level, you tap into purpose-driven positioning.

The problem is not that we are unaware, but that we choose to focus on others’ perceptions, not our real purpose. This is when brand identities become unclear.

Leaders often ask:

  • How can I get stronger buy-in?
  • Why do I struggle managing my subordinates?
  • What can I do to get a more consistent brand message across to my audience?

 

The underlying problem is that they are inconsistent with how they project their brand.

The reason for this? Wanting to please.

 

Great leaders don’t try to be perfect. Great leaders try to be themselves.

~ Simon Sinek

 

So while it’s important to dress and act professionally, allowing your personal style to shine through will only make you more believable as a leader. Clothing and accessories that makes you feel confident are the ones that should be selected for an important event.

Paying attention to details can also add to your brand presence. A specific color or pattern, socks or headwear, jewelry or accessory can make all the difference.

Start with the end in mind. Ask yourself:

  1. Is this the brand identity that best represents who I am?
  2. Does this brand identity create value for others?
  3. What risks am I taking by exhibiting this brand?  (and – can I live with those risks?)
  4. Do I feel I’m being true to myself when I _____ ?
  5. How would it benefit my audience if I were 100% myself?

 

With so much at stake, it can be intimidating to expose one’s true identity.  But reminding yourself of your core purpose can help you project a believable image that inspires confidence and reflects your personal brand as a leader.

Because asking yourself “what will they think?” is the fastest way to dilute your leadership brand.

 

Having an identity crisis?

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