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“There are two kinds of people, those who do the work and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group; there is less competition there.” – Indira Gandhi
Harvard Business Review defines a leadership brand as the following: “a leadership brand conveys your identity and distinctiveness as a leader; it communicates the value you offer.” If you have the wrong leadership brand for the position you have, or the position you want, then your work is not having the impact it could. A strong personal leadership brand allows all that’s powerful and effective about your leadership to become known to your colleagues, enabling you to generate maximum value.
John C. Maxwell, the prominent leadership author positions, “Leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.”
Case in Point – President George W. Bush Hurricane Katrina Moment
The historic Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in late August of 2005 with sustained winds of 125 mph. It was the costliest natural disaster and one of the five deadliest hurricanes in the history of the United States. Millions of Americans observed TV shots of New Orleans citizens stranded on rooftops as rising flood waters surrounded them. Timing could not have been worse for former President George W. Bush who was on vacation and far removed from this national emergency. Bush decided to curtail his vacation plans and return to Washington. On return, Air Force One was redirected to fly over the destruction to allow Bush to assess the area of disaster. Photos were taken by media photographers of Bush staring through the plane’s window reviewing the disaster below. Unfortunately for Bush, Americans perceived the photo as an indication that Bush was disconnected from the American people and lacked empathy for first responders and thousands of citizens at risk and impacted by this horrific event.
Later on, Bush visited the hurricane zone and directed billions dollars of federal financial support to assist in rebuilding and recovery efforts. However, his personal leadership brand and reputation as a strong crisis manager during a national disaster took a significant hit in the hearts of many Americans.
In his book “Decision Points,” Bush wrote, “That photo of me hovering over the damage suggested I was detached from the suffering on the ground. That was not how I felt. But once that impression was formed, I couldn’t change it.”
“The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers.” – Peter Drucker, Author and Business Management Consultant
What’s Your Personal Leadership Brand?
In my early days of entering the healthcare industry via the world of occupational health, it was evident to me in the local occupational health community those who did and didn’t have a strong personal leadership brand. Over and over, I heard the same names resonate with significant credibility, respect and admiration from many in the occupational health field. Their clinical acumen, leadership, mentoring and relationship management skills were the core pillars of their success. Developing your personal leadership brand is critical for making or breaking you in your future state career track.
Strengths + Behaviors = Perceived Value
Every interaction process matters. Each day you walk through the front door of your workplace you are either improving or damaging your leadership brand. Your brand is built over time and represents the individual and collective experiences that people have with you.
Be in tune with your daily actions. This includes professional conduct, ethics, treatment of others, attitude, authenticity and presence. Building your brand requires leaving your ego at the door. Projecting arrogance with I’m above you “attitude” will put you in the “I” camp rather than the “we” camp. Building a personal leadership brand means understanding your responsibility in collaborating and learning from others. During work-place crisis or conflicts with colleagues, having the capability to put your intelligence in front of your emotion. Managing your personal brand requires exercising constant self-assessment. Most importantly, be conscious of how your attitude and behaviors can impact team morale, departmental climate as well as operational and clinical outcomes?
When People are Willing to Follow, Clinical and Operational Outcomes Improve
A positive leadership brand creates followers. Without followers, it becomes difficult to lead change, execute strategy and build high performing teams. Those willing to follow will have your back and be with you during the good and bad. A management style which communicates, “I’m your manager, I’m your boss, do what I say” is an outdated and ineffective leadership approach.
Developing your personal leadership brand calls for leaving your personal agenda aside and focusing on the agendas of others. As one experienced occupational health nurse recently stated, “I would rather have just a few minutes than an hour with our medical director, as long as he is focused and engaged with my questions and actively listens to me. We only have him in the clinic for four hours each week. His time and presence is critical to our clinical outcomes and moving the program forward.”
“Leadership is a function of knowing yourself, communicating a vision, building trust, and taking effective action to realize your own leadership potential.” – Warren Bennis, Leadership Author
Who Do We Follow and Why?
Take a moment and think through those leaders in your life that have had a lasting impact and positive influence on you. They challenged you, encouraged you, picked you up when you were down and pushed you when you were at an intersection. Most likely, told you what you didn’t want to hear. While some came into your life for a snapshot, others remain today. For the new and current occupational health professionals entering the field, seek out those leaders, build relationships with them and learn from them.
What Legacy Will You Leave?
If you haven’t started this leadership journey, start today. When you wake up each day, make a decision on what type of friend, colleague, teacher, clinical leader and mentor you want to be. Take the time to assess your own leadership attributes as well as the perspectives and perceptions of others regarding your leadership model.
And remember, what legacy do you want to leave and what impact have you made or will you make on the lives of others?