Lose your double identity

Posted December 21, 2009 in Latest News & Insights

Personal branding has been a hot topic for years (we even did an event about it) and just seems to be escalating in today’s “employee” driven workplace.  Tons of high profile experts tell us to build and control our own brand and hundreds of people are creating personal websites, business cards and video bio’s to tell the world who they are.

But, as Tiger Woods’ has recently taught us in spades, there is a dark side to extreme branding.  When the brand you build for yourself is so completely out of sync with the “real” you, you’re fishing for trouble.

Woods’ would probably be weathering his current debacle a little better if he hadn’t relentlessly cultivated a squeaky clean family man image.

Working with a variety of leaders and senior executives, I see first hand how people cultivate and manage their “executive” presence…for better or for worse.

Many people claim that part of building your brand is “playing the game”. They say: “build an image that you know will get you ahead”.  Well, I think that’s a bunch of garbage. 

Here’s my observation:  when you are trying to cultivate an image of yourself that is very unlike your core self… it simply doesn’t work.  Sure, you can fool people initially (first impressions, when positive, take a while to change), but overtime and with repeated exposure, the cracks will begin to show. 

Take for example the senior banking executive who, when approached in our first year to speak on one of our panels, graciously declined saying that they were concerned that they were building too much profile for themselves and wanted to make sure they were sharing the spotlight with their team.  When we asked them for recommendations for others on their team to appear on our platform, we got no response.  (Hmmmm… team player or was our platform just not big enough for their ego?? I would have preferred a “you’re not high profile enough for me” response rather than a weak rejection that was really designed to try and make the exec look heroic.)

Or there was the high profile career expert who proports to support women, who inadvertently sent a snarky email to us about a picture on our launch website (she meant to send it to a friend!)  Thanks for the support!  Catty behaviour from women is always disappointing but it’s even more vile when it comes from someone who’s putting themselves out there as a champion of women.

As leaders, we should spend time learning about ourselves, our style and it’s impact on others.  Leadership is a never ending exploration of self in order to bring the best out of others. When your “outside image” isn’t aligning with your “real self”, I think your “followers” become skeptical and actually start looking for ways to bring you off your pedestal.

Pretending to be something you’re really not 24/7 is a near impossible task.  And frankly, isn’t leading today hard enough already?  I say, spend some time working on yourself and reflecting on who you are and who you want to be as a leader.  Then align your brand around this authenticity rather than trying to build an image of what you think your leadership brand should be.  We need more authenticity in the workplace… don’t you think?

Happy leading!


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  1. […] previous posts, we’ve blogged about “extreme” branding (eg: Tiger Woods) where your external message isn’t aligned to your reality.  In that post, […]