What Will Make or Break You as a Leader: Monetizing Your Leadership Brand

06/04/2015 04:28 pm ET | Updated Jun 04, 2016

By: Cindy Wahler

I board a plane and am sitting in seat C. A gentleman approaches me, points and states "Seat C, that's mine!" I simply pull out my boarding pass hold it up to him and he embarrassingly mumbles and files into his seat. His seat is D. Perhaps this was a genuine mistake on his part or perhaps his bravado showed up as bullying. Hard to know, but here's what matters.

It took less than 30 seconds to formulate an opinion. Of course I imagine him in a sandbox as a child and decide little has changed. His report cards I believe are littered with comments such as "Doesn't play well with others." "Won't share his toys." "Doesn't easily make friends."

Then I think maybe I am very wrong and he is the most collaborative peer and colleague anyone could wish for. Perhaps he does have stellar partnering skills.

The point is our leadership brand is formulated swiftly. First impressions run the risk of being lasting impressions. Your currency is based upon your ability to create leadership brand loyalty. This translates into your ability to attract three critical stakeholder groups.

Make sure those senior to you do not equate your leadership with "managing up and kicking down." If you lead this way they will be on to you. You must be effective at every level of the organization.

Your peers need to view your leadership with the right combination of humility and confidence. This is no easy task. Back to that sandbox. Ask yourself if you protect and covet your turf or if you understand that your efforts and contribution are interdependent on your peers. Finding common ground requires humility. Humility to be wrong, humility to not have all the answers, and humility to give up something for the greater good.

Are you available and accessible to your team? Of course you can provide technical advice. It's much more than that. Have you demonstrated a vested interest in your directs? Do you know what motivates them and are you clear on their career aspirations?

Most importantly does your team feel valued? You do this in two primary ways. One is recognition for great work and the other is ensuring there are opportunities for your directs to obtain profile. You must be able to stretch and develop your team. Fostering aspirational leadership is one of your key responsibilities.

Creating leadership brand loyalty is dependent upon your ability to attract invested stakeholders. Stakeholders who view you as a sound investment. They hold significant weight in your success. Without this your leadership brand will be at most a shiny new toy or at worst you will find yourself relegated to seat D.

Cindy Wahler, Ph.D., C.Psych. is a leadership consultant specializing in executive coaching and talent management. She can be contacted at