In the 1980s and 1990s, people joined organizations, not people. Folks joined organizations and did not dig deeply into whom they worked for and what they would be working on. In the 20th century, “name brand” companies like IBM and Xerox had an advantage by having access to the best talent because of their company name brand.

Big-company brand advantage is no longer the case in today’s market. In fact, our research shows that mid-market organizations have an as good, if not better, opportunity to attract top talent than Fortune 500 companies. The next generation of talent wants to hook their career wagon to a strong leadership horse. You must show you are a leader who can help employees develop themselves.

In the 21st  century, leaders must develop their leadership brands and know why people want to work on their teams. Interestingly enough, it is extraordinarily rare that people even think about their individual leadership brands. Most personal brands have developed organically—and unintentionally. I guarantee that in the lunchroom, employees will be able to tell you how a leader is branded.

Your goal should be to develop the image or reputation you desire. It should not develop without your intentional direction. Do not allow your brand to develop organically.

Your Brand Promise

When you are thinking about developing your leadership brand, you need to look at your “brand promise.” In other words, what is the benefit of working for you? How will employees grow? What does your brand promise and deliver?

In the past, many leaders simply had a leadership style. Leaders did not care how their workforce perceived this style as long as it drove results. All that has changed. Leadership style is one thing, but that tends to happen much more naturally based upon individual style. A leadership brand becomes what a leader is known for.

The first step to develop your leadership brand is to look at your brand promise. What do you want to be known for? Come up with a few responses. Some sample answers may be:

  • Everyone who works for me receives adequate resources.
  • I am fair but direct.
  • I want to be known as someone who advances others’ careers.
  • I want to be known as a helpful resource.

Now comes the hard part. Take some time to use your answers to the brand promise question to create your brand statement.

Here are a few examples of leadership brand statements:

  • I am a hard charger who is going up in the organization and taking my team with me.
  • I am a clear, direct leader/manager who supports my people to get results and fights for the needed resources.
  • I am a supportive manager who helps my reports succeed and promotes their growth potential.

Take Control of Your Brand

Leaders should be hyperaware of their leadership brands and look to develop them as much as possible by intentional actions, though this may be difficult.

With that said, leaders will need to create a list of self-skills to enhance. What are some things you want to start doing as a leader? How can you get your actions to align with your brand statement? What do you need to do? Conversely, what are some things that are keeping you from achieving your brand statement? How can some of your actions be misinterpreted as a leader? What do you need to stop doing?

Many leaders do not take the time to create a leadership brand. The reason is simple: it can be painful and difficult. Self-discovery may make you uncomfortable, but even the best leader can find some areas for improvement.

Intentionally drive your brand. Either you are in control of that outcome, or it will happen by accident. Take control.

Adapted from our best-selling book, The Leadership Decade: A Playbook for an Extraordinary Era. If you’d like to purchase a copy, please visit for a hardback book or for an ebook. For even more information, check out