How mindful are you of your personal leadership image? How do you come across to recruiters or business professionals? If you were to be publicly roasted, what would your friends and co-workers say about you?
Building an authentic leadership image is critical for your personal brand and professional success. As a leader you will greatly benefit from knowing how you come across to others. Your personality, style, behavior, body language, words and attitude all contribute to your image.
In today’s world, a five-minute interaction, whether in person, through e-mail or via social media channels, can define you in another’s eyes for years to come. Building your leadership image requires you to gain a clear picture how you’re coming across to others so that you can compare this against what you hope to convey.
Once armed with these data you can make improvements. The bottom line is that your professional image can either be an asset or a liability so take the time to make sure your image works in your favor.
Try to understand how others see you and why.
For example, what three words would your peers use to describe your leadership brand or what you stand for? Be vulnerable by asking for feedback. Create the opportunity to be “roasted” by soliciting 360-degree feedback from colleagues in the workplace. You can also ask for feedback from family and friends.
Be careful to monitor your verbal and nonverbal behavior.
Limited eye contact, shifting eyes, smirks, increased blinking or having your head tilted to one side might convey that you’re being dishonest or phony. A stoic expression could convey disinterest. Crossed arms might give a recruiter or colleague the impression that you’re defensive. Gaps in speech (e.g., “uh” or “ah”), rambling or fast speech, and flushed cheeks could convey nervousness or limited self-confidence. Being too serious might be perceived as overly reserved or uncaring. Appearing overbearing or competitive might portray a strongly independent or lone wolf image. Posting inappropriate humor, or daring or offbeat content on your Facebook page might convey an impulsive or mischievous demeanor. All of these things can affect how others perceive you, so pay attention to how you come across.
Keep in mind that image building is not about creating a false image or putting on a show. Be careful not to go overboard and be sure to interact with others in a genuine manner. Being true to who you are and putting your best foot forward will allow others to have a positive image of who you are as a leader.
Remember, as a leader your image is constantly being created and tested.
Your behaviors and attitude will either reinforce or disprove people’s impressions and assumptions about your competence and character. Don’t let a negative or poor image derail your leadership potential.
In the words of Warren Buffett, renowned investor and philanthropist, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
So manage your leadership image before others do it for you.
Jeffrey Kudisch is managing director of the Office of Career Services at the Robert H. Smith School of Business and a faculty expert in leadership, negotiations and human capital management. He has a Ph.D. in industrial and organizational psychology and he co-founded Personnel Assessment Systems, a human resource consulting firm specializing in executive assessment and leadership development.