Develop Your Leadership Brand

Herb Kelleher, co-founder and longtime CEO of Southwest Airlines, was known for his outrageous leadership style, which created a corporation culture that encouraged employees from the C-suite to baggage handlers to take their jobs seriously but themselves lightly. The Kelleher brand became an integral part of Southwest.

You don’t have to be chief executive of a Fortune 500 company to develop a brand that strengthens your leadership. Upon first reflection, you may wonder what a personal brand has to do with building a reputation as a trusted real estate expert but your brand is no different from corporate giants like Coca-Cola (“The Real Thing”) or Nationwide Insurance (“Nationwide is On Your Side.” )

If you’ve been in the business for a number of years, you may have built your brand organically, but that doesn’t mean it hurts to take a fresh look and if you are new to the business, you can start at ground zero to meld your brand and your leadership style. Here are our tips for doing so.

1. Define your value. This should be easy. In real estate, we often talk about not only closing a transaction but providing your expertise to homebuyers and sellers as they make life-changing decisions. Determine what value you bring to potential clients, be it your knowledge in a geographic area or skill with handling first time home buyers and make that essential in your story.
2. Tell your story. When others know your story — your background, important personal decisions, how you chose and rose in your profession — they not only feel as if they know you but also understand how you achieved your skill. Tie your story into the value you offer to build relationships with colleagues, employees and clients.
3. Be authentic. When you tell your story, be true to yourself. Authenticity is a core component of leadership and being honest, even though it may mean exhibiting vulnerability, is crucial to leadership. Although this can be uncomfortable, showing you care deeply about something and face the same uncertainties others do takes courage and builds respect. Think, for instance, of Oprah Winfrey, who tells the story of her tough upbringing and regularly and openly exhibits emotion in interviews: It’s no wonder she remains a business leader lauded by regular folks and corporate taste-makers like Fortune magazine, which named her one of the world’s best leaders in 2018.
4. Develop consistent messaging. Whether you are communicating in person or via social media, your message needs to contain the same core points each time to develop your leadership brand and create trust among those who follow you. You must repeatedly articulate your values for them to stick, so the sooner you refine your beliefs and basic message points, the better.
5. Make your brand identity real. Once you have initially defined your brand, share it with others. Check in with those around you to ensure you are coming across as you wish to be seen because the most important aspect to developing leadership brand credibility is delivering what you promise.

In summary, think of your leadership branding as the opportunity to feature your distinct set of talents and skills to fulfill your customers expectations. Chances are, you are already thinking about this, but now is as good a time as any to intentionally focus on honing your brand.