Jan
02

What’s Your Leadership Marque?

by  Chris Stricklin  |  Self Leadership
What’s Your Leadership Marque?

Logos, Brands, Slogans. Our world is saturated with advertising, marketing and branding, but are you missing the big picture?

The true measure of branding success is when the logo stands alone without any adornment, when the consumer base at large has a brand recognition of the logo.

When you see the Apple logo, it inspires certain opinions and thoughts – innovative, reliable, sleek.

Take this further than retail and physical products. What thoughts do the image of Abe Lincoln generate? Thoughts of the Gettysburg Address, his leadership, which overcame many setbacks, or the fact that his quotes, are among the most famous in the world.

Ask any CEO and they will tell you brand recognition and logo familiarity are what make or break a company.

As a leader, this is no different…

…Your face is your logo.
…Your style is your slogan.
…Your past success or failure, along with how you achieved it, defines your brand.

Do your followers recognize you as a leader or a manager? An innovator or a maintainer? A teambuilding innovator or a tyrannical dictator? A servant leader or a narcissistic one?

Does your persona light a fire in their gut or just under their butt? Does it inspire thoughts of innovative change, teamwork and success or does it make them think of a company man striving to maintain the status quo?

Whether a multi-billion dollar company like Chevrolet or Apple, a collection of like-minded innovators like those at Lead Change Group or an individual like Abe or you, the ultimate goal is to create a successful Brand. Too many individuals do not think of their careers and lives this way.

Many times we ask, “How will you be remembered?”

This is simply brand recognition, and with each day and action you are further promoting your Leadership Marque. To be successful, this must be a deliberate development, a structured evolution of both who you are and who you strive to be.

Although the definition of leadership varies and will always remain the topic of much debate and passionate opinions, the variables which define your leadership marque easily fall into four variables: presence, principles, actions and reactions.

Presence

Your leadership presence is an interwoven result of your past experience, learned abilities and future capability. It is an intrinsic quality which motivates people to follow you, to respect you. Realize every person in a room has a presence – however small or large, positive or negative. Be deliberate about developing your leadership presence and you will leave just as lasting of a mark.

Looks aren’t everything but appearance is a strong first impression. A leader is not always in a pristine suit, but the attire should match the situation. If your appearance, demeanor and office are neat and tidy, it subconsciously informs everyone you expect the same from them.

Remember, a group takes on the demeanor of the leader. Leaders must focus on their poise and be confident, not cocky. Grace under pressure confirms to everyone watching that you are in total control and have the ability and capability to be successful. Further, ultimate leaders make every person they talk to feel like the most important person in the room.

Finally, a leader should always be the most prepared individual in any room. Study, prepare and don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.” Never wing an answer. Incorrect facts and verbal tap-dancing detract from your credibility and yield unrecoverable sound-bites.

Principles

Look to the headlines on any given day and you will find a CEO who has fallen from grace because of a decision to stray from the moral, ethical or legal path. Your leadership marquee will always be first defined by your adherence to these basic guidelines, but it is more than that. Principles are not always black-and-white. Your followers rely on your lead.

Do you speed to make progress and achieve success? Think about the law. When you drove to work this morning, the speed limit was 65 mph. As you merged onto the 405, you most likely saw all those around you setting the cruise control well above that speed. While illegal, you probably joined the masses and watched for the California Highway Patrol while you pushed your luck.

Do you speed in business? Do you overlook small legalities, justifying actions to get where you are going faster? In leadership, “speeding” reinforces to your followers that selective adherence to rules and regulations is acceptable in order to achieve success. Know that someone is always watching your every action and inaction, decision and indecision, shortcut and corner you cut. Know what principles you stand for and never let them be compromised.

Speeding reinforces to followers that selective-adherence to rules and regulations is acceptable in order to achieve success.

Actions

Leadership is about result, period. The definition of results will vary by situation, but this fact is indisputable. What results does your leadership marque inspire thoughts of when people think of your style?

To be successful, a leader must be efficiently effective on the quest for mission success. Their actions must inspire growth in followers and motivate them to strive for and achieve levels of success they never thought necessary.

Leadership is about decisions. We all know a leader whose leadership marquee invokes a clear picture of analysis paralysis, the ones who continually want more data and a definitively positive guarantee of success before making a decision and putting their name on the line. Many so-called leaders too often forget that indecision is a decision.

We also know those leaders whose actions are driven by calculated and deliberate risk taking. The type we would trust with our lives…and coming from a military officer, I mean that literally.

Indecision is a decision.

Reactions

Think of both the best and worst leader you know. What is the #1 thing that came to mind about them? Most likely it was their reactions. When things went bad, my best leader put his arm around my shoulder and said, “how do we recover.” Meanwhile my worst leader lost his temper, yelled pointlessly and was only concerned with the personal impact on him.

As a leader, never lose your temper unless it is intentional.

If your first thoughts of a leader are almost always memories of their predisposed reaction style, why is this so often an overlooked aspect of leadership development? The problem with this aspect of your leadership marquee is that it is encompassed by emotion. Emotional Intelligence has recently been recognized as a vital aspect of success. Ninety percent of top performers have a high EQ and this EQ is responsible for well over half of job performance.

The beauty of this aspect is that it is completely moldable, adaptable and variable. As a leader, you must make the same calculated and deliberate decision in high-stress, fluidly dynamic environment as you do in a preplanned boardroom setting. Business is combat. In the military, it is not stock prices and investor confidence we are worried about, it is the lives of the individuals we have been entrusted and charged to lead.

A common saying is, “no plan survives first contact with the enemy.” This simple statement reminds us as leaders that we must plan as thoroughly as possible, but also must understand that to lead is to make life-or-death decisions under fire, with limited facts in a time critical environment. This is the ultimate variable in establishing your leadership marquee.

For confirmation of the importance of this aspect, just look at any military professional’s resume or biography and take notice of the first descriptor which is usually listed: Combat-proven leader. This, in our world, is the ultimate mark of leadership and cements our leadership marquee. Grace under pressure confirms to everyone watching you are in total control and have the ability and capability to be successful. What is the descriptor you are striving for in developing your leadership marque?

No plan survives first contact with the enemy

Your Leadership Marque

Passion must be genuine, it should never be faked. If you are passionate about your brand, your mission, your organization, your team – this will affect and infect those you lead. Build your leadership brand, your leadership marque, into something which you and your followers are proud of and passionate about. Be as deliberate in building your personal brand and creating recognition as a Fortune 500 CEO.

How do you build leadership presence? Please leave your insight below to join the conversation…
Photo Credit: Alice Popkorn

About The Author

Articles By chris-stricklin
Chris is a combat-proven leader, mentor, author and coach integrating the fields of negotiations, leadership skills, public relations, public speaking and complex organizational change. His unique experience as a U.S.A.F. Thunderbird coupled with Pentagon-level management of critical Air Force, multiple N.A.T.O. assignments and command-experience in the USAF combine in his innovative style of leadership.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

John E. Smith  |  03 Jan 2015  |  Reply

Hi, Chris:)

First, thanks for your service.

This is a well- thought-out and comprehensivedissection of leadership essentials. I cannot claim the “Combat-Proven Leader” descriptor, but my military experiences have been invaluable in my career and your sharing from this perspective is welcomed.

I could happily comment on everything you have shared, but your thoughts in “Actions” around what your followers think about you reminded me of a Ropes Course I took my college student housing staff through one time.

As the facilitator explained the general guidelines and began the first challenge, he noticed that thirty sets of eyeballs swiveled on me, as I obliviously “took charge” and made all the decisions, unknowingly setting a top-down dynamic, which was the opposite of my intention for the day. I was trying to help my staff become critical thinkers and problem solvers … And this was not the way.

In the first challenge, I immediately took charge to explain how we would safely escape the Giant Poison Spider … and blew our chances with a careless action fifteen seconds in.

After a quick debriefing with the team, the facilitator creatively addressed this issue by tying my hands behind my back, gagging, and blindfolding me for the rest of the morning, taking me completely out of any leadership role and making me baggage for the team to haul around as they quite effectively solved various challenges.

This learning experience for both me and my team was one of the most thoughtful and productive I have participated in. I learned about by eing helpless and totally dependent on others and various team members experienced clear boosts to their confidence – win-win:)

This was a clear lesson about paying attention to how your actions affect others and a turning point in my professional leadership journey.

Chris, thanks again for your excellent post and the trip down Memory Lane:)

John

David  |  09 Jan 2015  |  Reply

Some logos can generate a strong emotions from their customers. Likewise, some leaders just by their mear presence can generate emotions in their followers. I think one test of this emotional response can be seen as soon as you enter a room.

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