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Take The Lead

"Personal branding" is a highly commoditised term these days and rightly so, since everyone has one. However, for a business owner, entrepreneur or executive, personal branding is about leadership first and Twitter a distant second.

Much of your success as a leader will emanate from the quality of your personal brand and there are three important building blocks to establishing this brand: creating self-belief, building trust and becoming a subject-matter expert.

The foundation stone to your leadership DNA is creating self-belief – understanding who you are and what makes you tick. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses, your preferences and dislikes, your traits and history, your dreams and purpose and most importantly, your value system gives you supreme comfort and confidence in who you are.

Most people would say they have an approximate idea of who they are and what they represent, but to be an authentic leader one must have a thorough understanding of one's self. One easy way to test this is to articulate the top five things you think others experience in a relationship with you and then ask a few close friends or colleagues to honestly express the same. Comparing the two will give you an accurate indication of where perception meets reality.

This better understanding of yourself brings you greater clarity and confidence around your own capability, what you can achieve, and in which direction. Also knowing your value system, and hence your likely responses when faced with a variety of challenging situations that confront you, helps you craft who you are. This increased certainty in turn leads to greater resilience, because if you try things that fail, you know you can work out why and return with confidence to your core capability.

Since one of the important characteristics of being a leader is that you genuinely believe you are a leader, and not an imposter, your clarity, confidence, certainty and resilience are valuable building blocks in your self-belief.

In leadership, the close companion to self-belief is building trust in others. For people to follow you as an employee or to buy from you as a client, they need to trust you and this involves demonstrating over time your good character and capability through a variety of situations and circumstances. Two excellent works to explore on this topic are, Stephen Covey's Speed of Trust and David Horsager's The Trust Edge, and they suggest a few common approaches.

Clarity of your communication is an essential start. Be clear about your goals and your expectations, talk honestly and openly, and sell the vision. Certainly avoid manipulating people or leaving false impressions.

Being an active listener, able to demonstrate respect and loyalty by giving credit to others, and being consistently fair, kind and civil are all traits that create confidence in you as a person and encourage people to be attracted to your proposition.

Your capability is equally important in building trust, and one quick way to achieve this is by delivering results. In doing so, you should practise accountability by holding yourself and others responsible for results, and also demonstrate that you can confront reality by taking any tough decisions head-on and delivering painful messages sensitively and consistently.

Although some people are blessed, it's unlikely that you will possess the full deck of character and capability cards, and so you need to be adept at building trust by accentuating your strengths and downplaying weaknesses. It's perhaps easier to build trust if you have character but not capability, rather than the other way around, but ideally you have strengths in both. Either way a healthy dose of humility and a sense of humour will also help win over your audience.

The third foundation stone is being a subject-matter expert in your chosen field, and here Twitter could make an appearance. Most industry sectors are undergoing significant change and your audience wants your insights and the foresight accumulated through the course of your work. What you tell them (through a range of mediums, social and otherwise) about the market trends and changes will cement further in their mind your qualities as a leader.

Being a subject-matter expert, building trust and possessing self-belief and confidence will encourage your audience to follow you, be inspired by you and buy from you.

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