I, the Brand
In my strategic communications consulting and coaching practice, I am often confronted with the question: if I start boosting my personal brand, does it mean that I am betraying my current company? This question, which reflects the high degree of loyalty, ethics and integrity of the people asking it, many of them corporate leaders like you, led me to a series of considerations that I’d like to share with you in the column below.
Today’s world of work is inevitably changing. We are experiencing massive transformation driven by several factors.
- Accelerated technological innovations. With the rise of artificial intelligence, Internet of Things and automation – collaborative robots, electrical, flying or self-driving cars being just a few symptoms of this phenomenon – the world as we know it is ending every day. We must start admitting that it is quite impossible to grasp the features of our future business, economic and socio-political models as carved by today’s accelerated technological transformation.
- Demographic changes. For the first time in history we are confronted with a mix of at least five generations at the workplace, each one specific in its own way. There is nothing new about people with different ages working together – this occurred in the past as well. However, as the global market is becoming more and more employee-driven, companies find themselves compelled to deal with the different age-driven specifics and integrate age diversity as opposed to applying a more comfortable and easily manageable one-fits-all employment model as in the past.
- Diversity challenges. Time will come when we will smile nostalgically at when dealing with gender diversity was our main headache. The real challenge ahead of us is embracing the entire mix of diversity in terms of multitude of nationalities, cultures, religions, local and regional attachments, language endowments and levels of overall cultural maturity unleashed by globalization.
These are only a few of the challenges that are making today’s leadership models a constant quest for the North Star – that firm guide above that will show us how to navigate the unclear and unknown waters ahead of us. One of the most important moments in a leader’s personal growth occurs when, unable to see the North Star, there is nothing left but to look our challenge in the eyes and admit that we don’t know. In today’s massive, overwhelmingly complex world, quick solutions drafted in septic management school rooms simply don’t work anymore. What we need to do is to learn to embrace our own limitedness and vulnerability – our own “smallness.” We need to learn to become comfortable with not knowing. This way we become humble and we open ourselves to viable solutions that might come from places impossible to see before. In today’s world, this is the first step towards genuine individual empowerment.
When you’re aware of your value, you cannot not communicate it
What comes next is even more interesting. Individuals who know they don’t know and are able to humbly open themselves to new solutions and collaboration become somehow stronger on the inside. This inner force doesn’t allow such individuals not to act – in terms of leadership and communications alike. When you know that the value of what you can offer to the world, of your unique gift that is needed and relevant, you cannot hold it for yourself. You cannot not communicate it.
The question is: what will companies do with such individuals? Will the company – the group, the whole – accept, allow and encourage an environment in which such conscious individualities become engines of innovation? Or will they continue to bet on scale-driven, time-tested structures and processes that will allow them to make a bit more money through size and scope, yet at the expense of innovation, talent motivation, people engagement and genuine service?
This takes me back to my initial question: do people betray their companies when they want to start building their personal brands? The answer is: not at all. Yet before moving forward allow me to make one more essential distinction – between personal branding and self-promotion.
In my understanding self-promotion is the vainglorious attempt of boosting one’s visibility for narrow, individual-only benefits. In today’s social-network-instant-chat-app-driven communication world self-promotion has become dangerously available and scarily potent – as the recent elections in the United States have showed. But can self-promotion stand the test of time in terms of genuine competencies, respect and people trust? No. My experience shows that self-promotion can only take an individual that far. On the other hand, personal branding is the complex process of finding the best in yourself and communicating it with the world consciously, compassionately and consistently for the benefit of everyone involved. This is the major difference between personal branding and self-promotion: self-promotion is for one’s self only, personal branding is putting the best in one’s self to the service of others. A genuine strategic communications process from the inside-out, personal branding cannot resist the test of time unless it is grounded in the deepest layers of one’s personality, competencies, experiences and individual wisdom. Being able to channel all those individual qualities for the benefit of others is a major sign of personal maturity – a sign of leadership. Now you tell me: which company, dealing with individuals who are aware of the best in themselves and willing to put their unique life force and gifts to the service of others, would refuse such an offer?
That’s why I strongly believe that striving to develop your personal brand is not a betrayal to your company: it is, in fact, a gift to your company. In the new world of work, which requires new models of leadership driven by mindfulness and an ability to walk the world open, vulnerable and curious, personal branding becomes the strategic empowerment tool for leadership. All it needs is a commitment to authentic, inside-out communications – for the sake of ourselves, our companies and our world.
Cristina Muntean specializes in strategic communications and personal development. She has more than 12 years’ experience in the Czech, Romanian and international media. In 2010 Cristina founded Media Education CEE, a Prague-based PR advisory and training agency. Her clients are entrepreneurs and managers with Top100 companies in the Czech Republic and Central and Eastern Europe. Cristina is also the former president of the Czech PR Klub and former chairwoman of the Marketing Committee of the American Chamber of Commerce in the Czech Republic. She is an internationally certified trainer and coach with the Enneagram, a complex system of personal development. Cristina provides corporate and individual advisory, training, coaching and mentoring on topics such as Media Training, Crisis Communications, Writing for the Media, Presentation Skills, Personal Branding and Emotional Intelligence in Communications in English, Czech, French and Romanian, her mother tongue. She can be reached at +420 776 574 925 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.