Your personal brand doesn’t just develop on its own. It takes time and effort to solidify. For some, this may come easy. For others, they need a little help to get it where it needs to be.
I recently started working with a woman who wanted to improve her personal brand and move into a director position in her male-dominated industry. Throughout our first session, she kept repeating the phrases, “Dawn, I’m going to be honest with you”, or “I’m about to be totally vulnerable”, or “You have to trust me on this one”. She repeated herself so often I wondered if she had a nervous tick.
Yes, honesty, vulnerability, and trust are critical attributes for anyone who wants to take on more responsibility as they move up in their career. But real leaders don’t just tell people that they are honest and vulnerable. Their actions prove how much they value those characteristics in themselves and others.
Cultivate a Personal Brand Built on Honesty
My new client was deeply ashamed of how much money she’d been spending on clothes. She begged me not to judge her when she opened her closet door, but when she did, I didn’t see too much clothing; I was the wrong clothing.
She had been obsessively shopping for items that she thought fit the bill for the job she wanted. What she hadn’t considered was whether those pieces actually felt good on her. Sure, every company has rules and a culture that you may need to adjust to. But that doesn’t mean you should put on a costume every time you go to work.
We sorted through that overstuffed closet and put together a wardrobe that aligned her authentic personal brand with the leadership role she wanted to attain.
Effective Leaders Embrace Vulnerability
Vulnerability is not just a buzzword; it’s a practice. It’s not enough to come in, punch the clock and work like a robot anymore. Successful companies want their employees to bring their whole, human selves into the office. That means sharing who you are on a deep level.
Of course, opening up is not an easy task. It’s easy to see vulnerability as a sign of weakness or worry that others will take advantage of you if you reveal too much. But actual vulnerability is a sign of strength. When you honestly communicate your deepest fears, dreams, or struggles, you invite others to do the same. This encourages communication, builds connections and creates psychological safety.
The Foundation of Effective Leadership is Trust
There can be no vulnerability or honesty without trust. It’s the building block of every critical relationship, and without it, you have nothing. But creating trust is a two-way street. You can’t expect others to put their faith in you if you don’t trust them first.
The idea was challenging for me to grasp for a long time. I was cheated, lied to, and taken advantage of so many times in my career that I worried I’d never trust anyone again. But I let go of those experiences by working to build trust in myself.
I took inventory of my values, strengths, and accomplishments, which allowed me to stand in my power and honestly believe that I had what I needed to make smart decisions and help others do the same.
If you are struggling to trust others, try these practices to rebuild faith in yourself:
- Take Stock of Your People: Surround yourself with people who will reflect back to you when you’re making the right decision and when you’re off track.
- Find a Mentor: Seek out someone you admire and ask them to tell you how they got to where they are. Can you embrace some of their behaviors?
- Make Time for Quiet: Find a simple gratitude meditation and practice it every day. You don’t have to sit for hours. Five to ten minutes is plenty.
- Educate Yourself: Read books and articles about rebuilding self-trust. Doing this reminds you that you’re not alone and adds to your self-care tools.
Great Leaders Are More Than the Sum of Their Hard Skills
You may be great at what you do, but your personal brand isn’t worth much without honesty, vulnerability, and trust. The best leaders possess all three. And while they may not have had them when first starting, they put the time and energy into developing them along the way.
Remember, you can’t be truly honest and vulnerable until you believe in yourself. Be you. Do your thing. If you need some help to develop your personal brand that embraces all three key characteristics, give me a call.