Your individual leadership brand, and the brand of your team

Change Management, Culture D&I, HR Management, Remote Teams and Global Working, Talent Management | 1 comment

Recently with a new client in Russia I’ve found myself in executive coaching sessions talking about brand. And previously in Kazakhstan, we built the concept of brand into the new senior leadership development course we introduced.

Brand is a concept I embraced many years ago when I had my first ‘remote’ global leadership team reporting to me. I wanted people in the different locations to both ‘see’ the team, rather than just the local representatives, and to know what we stood for and what they could expect from us.

Company brands are known to all of us. If we think of Apple, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Google, Nike, Microsoft, Disney or Rolex then we know what to expect from that company. The perception or image of a product, service or concept that differentiates itself from others. A set of associations and promises. And companies spend a lot of time and money in promoting their brands.

But what about a leadership brand or team brand? Can indeed people be brands?

Well, if we think about people like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Elon Musk, even President Putin and Donald Trump, then the answer is yes.

And even if we are not as famous, we all have a brand whether we do anything about managing it or not. These are the impressions people have about us, what they think and say about us when they think we cannot hear them. What they associate with us. The promise we offer. Or not.

Why might this be important?

Because your leadership brand conveys your identity, what is distinctive about you and the value you offer. It communicates what is good and impactful about your leadership to colleagues (and bosses) such that you can be even more effective in what you do and want to do. So it is worthwhile managing your brand.

The same is true for your team. When people in your company think about your team what comes to their mind? Positive or negative? Can they rely on you? Their common impressions and experiences about your team, defines your team brand. Which means not only what you and your team deliver but also the way in which you do it. A strong positive brand will again help you get things done easier, manage expectations and build trust. If there is no common theme then your internal ‘market’ is probably confused.

Team brands are especially important to remote or dispersed teams, in different locations. Giving support to individuals in sites to get things done as part of the broader team. Allowing local leaders to see the bigger picture. And enabling your global team as a whole to deliver what is expected of it.

Both the individual and team brand can also be important to your career. Organisations and companies are political systems. Senior people will be too busy to ask you exactly what you are doing in detail. So you really do need to market yourself and your team if you want people to know what you are capable of.

Remember, even if you don’t do anything you will still have a brand. It just might not contain the aspects that you would prefer people to associate with you. So you can either think that others are going to make up their minds about you anyway and you can’t control what they think. Or it’s an opportunity to actively market yourself, even if this seems counterintuitive because you need to constantly think whether or not what you are doing and saying, is in line with the professional you wish to be. Because for your branding to be successful you also have to make it real.

So what are the steps to managing your own leadership brand and the brand of your team?

These are the ones that I have found the most useful, although there are other approaches, with many more steps and questions you can pose yourself, available elsewhere on the web!


First you as a leader and your personal leadership brand.

  • Your brand needs to support what you want to achieve professionally (say in the next year or in your current role) and the contribution you want to make (the results). So best to define your personal and work goals first.
  • What are your core strengths and skills already? Where are you an expert or are you becoming an expert? Your brand has to be real: so it is helpful to build it on your existing strengths.
  • What do you want to be known for and have people say about you, when you achieve what you want to do? How would you like people to see you? And how do they see you at the moment? List a few of the key words, characteristics, traits or behaviours that are now used, and you want be used by people in your environment, when describing you in the future. (Examples could be: delivers results; independent; team player; pragmatic; strategic; analytic; intuitive; innovative; positive; energetic; supportive; manages change; challenging; customer-centric; agile; networker; motivated; committed to excellence…….whatever makes sense for your brand).
  • A first reality check: What are the traits, habits and acts that people in your company most respect? What do the heroines (and heroes) in your organization behave like? And are you behaving in these ways? Do they need to be part of your brand? And who are the most influential people in your company and why are they influential, both formally and informally? Understand why they have this power and widen your own span of influence within your brand.
  • What therefore is your personal leadership brand? What words or phrases describe it? What are the 1 or 2 competences you might still need to develop to achieve the desired result?
  • Second reality check: test it. Is it really you? Does it really represent you and what you can do? Will it help get your desired results? Does it create value? Can you live it?
  • Make your brand identity real and ‘advertise’ it. Behave consistently! The look and feel of who you are all needs to support your brand. How you interact with people, how you deliver, to your LinkedIn profile and how you dress. But most importantly what you do and how you do it.


It is a similar list for the Team Brand.

  • Why does the team exist at all? What is its purpose, its reason for being and its contribution to the broader organization. (Note that this is different from the objectives of the team)
  • What does your team think its brand is, its current reputation and behaviours, and what do your clients and stakeholders think?
  • What could the brand be and what does the brand need to be to help your team be more effective in delivering its purpose, the team’s ability to perform, influence or get buy-in? Work with your team on this to get their own buy-in and ownership.
  • Define the behaviours as well as the brand values which you will need to develop and work on. Think of supporting material that might help ‘advertise’ the team brand. (I had a project management role a number of years ago connected to the reorganization at the top of Shell and the physical move of people from around the world to The Hague. About 60 people worked on the project, but almost nobody full-time and nobody reporting directly to me. We developed a visual to support our team branding and the performance indicators for the project – a field of purple tulips – to reflect The Netherlands. It sounds trivial: but it worked).
  • Agree actions, live the brand and behave consistently with it. And review and improve!

1 Comment

  1. Qin Cai

    Interesting piece – a lot of relevance to what has been happening at ACCESS, and certainly lots we can learn from what you said here …


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