In my book, “Reputation 360: Creating power through personal branding,” I discuss competitive advantage and the necessity to establish an authentic personal brand to help you stand apart from competitors. This is particularly important for Generation Y professionals.
Your competitive advantage comes from being very clear about what you offer and to whom. When you can differentiate your value proposition from others who might be crowding your space, you can compete more effectively across your network.
Consider the recent college graduate who majored in English (emphasis in Journalism), participated in sports in high school, and held internships at the local newspaper. If she markets herself to potential employers based on her skills or resume, she looks like every other recent grad with an English degree.
On the other hand, if that same recent graduate is passionate about getting to the truth of situations, uncovering corruption, and being the voice of those who are being taken advantage of, then she can start to position herself as someone with a purpose and vision. When she talks to potential employers in the media, for instance, she can highlight how her experience and passions make her an ideal protégé to an experienced reporter who needs to get a better handle on social media. Now she is positioning herself as unique and compelling.
Building Leadership Potential
Anyone looking to enhance their leadership potential should begin by becoming very clear on their goals and how being a leader supports them. “Leadership” is one of those words that can mean different things to different people: A young person who is exhausted with schooling might perceive leadership as being in control; a military veteran who directed combat missions might see leadership as taking accountability or responsibility for a mission; or a business professional who is building an empire might view leadership as having the say in every aspect of the business. What one person might call leadership could also be defined as management, visioning, or coercion by another.
Once you are clear on what leadership means to you, ask yourself what kind of leader you want to be. This is where personal branding and self-discovery are critical. In order to be an effective leader, you need a clear sense of self and a good understanding of your unique values and skills. What drives and motivates you? Who inspires you and why? How will your leadership style create your desired reputation? This is where brand building gets interesting!
Ultimately, your leadership goals and potential should enhance the reputation and brand you are building – this is your legacy. Having a strategy for “who” you want to be helps define “what” and “how” you will serve as a leader. There simply is no shortcut.