Improve Your Personal Leadership Brand With These Expert Tips


Strong leaders nurture their brand through mindfulness and persistence, and the work is never done.

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Lee Stuart once worked for “the evil twins.” But it wasn’t a pair of bosses — it was just one guy.

“We used to call him ‘the evil twins’ because the same guy who would be there on Monday was a different guy on Tuesday,” said Stuart, leadership instructor at the KU Edwards Campus (KUEC). “And that's very, very difficult.”

That boss? He had a bad leadership brand.

“Everybody has a brand,” says Skip Gast, a former human resources executive who now does leadership training with Stuart at KUEC. “People know and recognize good leaders. Good leaders matter because they can attract others who want to work with them, they retain high performers because those performers are satisfied and don’t look elsewhere and they positively impact productivity and financial outcomes.”

Poor leaders, of course, can have the opposite effect.

“Everyone can and should be mindful of what they're projecting,” Stuart said. “Who are you? What value can you provide — basically to the world, but more specifically, to the folks with whom you work, interact with in your family, your friends, your community?”

Stuart and Gast reveal the best ways to adjust your brand, what it is, what you want it to be and how to get there through their personal leadership brand workshop at KUEC.

It’s pithy. In their seminars, Stuart and Gast guide participants to develop a “brand statement” that is succinct and can be developed, communicated and understood.

Stuart’s brand, he said, is “benign contrarian.” “I'm going to challenge your assumptions,” he said, “but never in a harmful way." That brand lets coworkers and clients know he’s there to help — and to help them think outside the box.

“Once someone has identified their brand, individuals should determine a course of action to either reinforce their brand or establish a goal to buid the brand someone wants" Gast said.

It’s not what you say, but what you do. Consistency of action, Stuart said, is key. Take his “evil twins” boss, for example: “Even though he was brilliant and had a heart of gold, his behaviors got in the way of all of that. So it's about consistency, reliability and overtly expressing who you are.”

According to Gast, “a leadership brand represents the total relationship experience you have with someone else. If those interactions aren't positive and aren't good, as a leader you're going to have a more difficult time being successful. No leader gets everything done by themselves.”

Bottom line, Gast said. "If people think you're a jerk, you won't be able to engage others to help you as a leader deliver on what is expected."

It takes persistence. This is especially true if you’re trying to change how others perceive your brand.

"One of the things we talk about is: If you're looking to change, it takes — at minimum — seven interactions before somebody says, 'There's something different about that person,'” Gast said. “If you have four interactions and ‘the evil twin shows up,’ you go back to zero.”

He added: “If you're really trying to change, you have to be focused and consistent about how you present yourself."

You’re never done. Gast likes to quote Lee Cockerell, a former Disney executive: "As bosses, people watch what we do and take cues from us all day long."

That means there’s no day off from being committed to the brand you want to project into the world and your workplace. "Your brand is being viewed and evaluated all day long,” Gast said, “even when you don't know it's being done."

Learn more about the seminars, training and other offerings from KU Lifelong & Professional Education, including the new KU Professional Leadership Certificate

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