Nobody wants to suck. At the same time, the world of work is changing in ways that make it harder and harder to stand out. As a leader in this strange climate, we must constantly be finding new ways to differentiate ourselves in an increasingly competitive and global marketplace.

In order to thrive, we must create our own “Personal Leadership Brand.”

A Personal Leadership Brand is to an individual person what a typical “brand” is for a larger product: it provides clarity around how that “thing” will make my life better/easier/more fulfilled. Over time the brand also engenders an emotional connection that gets wrapped up in the perception of the brand itself, which is incredibly powerful.

In the new economy, the best way to not suck is to be our own brand.

There are three steps to building a Personal Leadership Brand, and coincidentally (or not), they all start with “S”!

1. Strengths (Know ‘Em)

In order to define a brand, we have to know exactly what makes it so great. Studies have shown that the greatest leaders in the world don’t share the same talents and strengths—quite the opposite, in fact. But what these leaders do share is an intimate knowledge of how to leverage the things they are good at and how to manage around the things they are not.

This ability to highlight the strengths of something is at the core of every great brand. Apple is a great example of this—where most technology manufacturers preach about the specs and features of their product, Apple talks almost exclusively about the benefits: those things about their products that will make life better.

This is the first step towards creating a great Personal Leadership Brand: know your strengths, and how how to tell other people about them.

2. Space (Carve It Out)

Discovering our strengths, how to talk about them properly, and how to integrate them into our careers isn’t an easy (or fast) thing to do, which is why we need space. I don’t need to tell you that it’s increasingly difficult to “find” free time in today’s ever-faster world—this is why we must carve it out.

The harsh reality is that the world doesn’t care about you being a good leader, about you enjoying a thriving life, or about you getting to work in your strengths.

Think of a successful individual like Oprah. Nobody walked up to Oprah and gave her a job description that read “Oprah’s Job” at the top. The reason Oprah gets to do what she does everyday (which is live and work in her strengths, by the way) is because slowly, with much effort over a period of decades, she carved out time to learn about what she was good at and to deliberately steer her career in that direction. You can do the same (if you want it badly enough).

This is the second step in creating a great Personal Leadership Brand: carve out the space to figure out how to use your strengths in your career.

3. Sensei (Get One)

Thss word “sensei” is made from two Japanese characters put together: the first means “born before,” and the second means “one who teaches based on wisdom from age and experience.” Like Socrates, the best leaders in the world know that they don’t know everything. They also realize that one of the best sources for learning resides in the people around them.

In one of their massive research studies, The Gallup Organization found seven qualities that the best leaders in the world share, and one of these behaviors is that these amazing leaders were both being mentored and were mentoring someone else. They had a sensei and were one, as well. Because most of the way we work is caught not taught, senseis, mentors, coaches and role models are crucial for our continued development.

Furthermore, it’s almost impossible to achieve numbers 1 and 2 without a sensei. We human beings have an incredibly difficult time getting an accurate and objective view of ourselves by ourselves. We are simply too close to the subject! Look at the best athletes on the planet; do they achieve greatness on their own? Or is there always a great coach somewhere nearby? (The latter.)

This is the third step in creating a great Personal Leadership Brand, and in all likelihood, may need to happen first: find a sensei of good character who can help you know yourself and guide you in the right direction.

By combining these three steps—discovering our strengths, carving out space, and finding a sensei—we can start to create a personal leadership brand that will not only keep us from sucking, but will put us on the path to thrive in the new economy.

Josh Allan Dykstra
Josh Allan Dykstra is a work revolutionary, author, and speaker. He is a founder of the consulting firm Strengths Doctors where he helps leaders design work environments that don't suck. Connect with him online at joshallan.com.
Josh Allan Dykstra

Latest posts by Josh Allan Dykstra (see all)

Josh Allan Dykstra