How do you establish trust with those you lead?

Having a strong personal brand is an asset for any leader. How people experience you depends on your personal brand. The more reliable your personal brand, the more effective you become as a leader.

One of the most critical elements in leading others is establishing credibility and developing trust. To build that trust you must not only present yourself as credible to your followers, but have the resume to back it. When you build a strong personal brand, your credibility shines through.

There are five keys to building or strengthening a personal brand that all leaders can utilize to become more effective.

Key 1: Identity: Do you know what defines you?

The first step in developing your personal brand identity is to clearly define who you are. Once you understand who you are as an individual, then the brand will flow from there.

Defining who you are allow you to lead naturally from your experiences and strengths. Knowing what you stand for and what you value is also foundation-al to your brand persona.

Here’s an exercise I have all of my clients go through. Make a list of your of your many personal values. This list may grow to be quite long, it usually does.

Next, narrow it down to the top 5 things that you value. This is what matters to you and most probably what you spend most of your time on. If you don’t identify what is important to you, your personal brand will be fragmented and you will come across as disingenuous. It is hard to follow leaders who don’t know what they stand for.

Key 2: Image: Are you making the best first impression you can?

Do you need to wear a suit or dress every day? No. But you do need to be in alignment with your brand and the audience you are trying to lead.

People do judge us by what we wear. Your image is greatly shaped by your wardrobe. As a leader, your wardrobe is your uniform. Believe it or not, your attire either allows you to connect with others or causes them to pause.

The goal with your wardrobe is to dress in such a way that what you are wear-ing commands respect and doesn’t distract from your message.

What image do you need to project to build trust and represent leadership? That’s how you should dress. The positive image you create by doing that will instantly elevate your personal brand.

Key 3: Language: Are you communicating with confidence and persuasion?

Good leaders are good communicators. They know what they want people to hear and have a way of structuring their conversations so that they assure trust and credibility.

The language you use can set you up for success or struggle. There are certain phrases in the English language that tend to find their way into conversations, and end up sabotaging you without even knowing it.

Following are two common language mishaps that will prevent you from being seen as truly accomplished:

Starting a sentence with “sorry” or “I’m sorry” when there is nothing to be sorry about.

When you say I’m sorry at the beginning of the sentence, you immediately weaken your statement. Apologetic openings when you have nothing to apologize for either flag that you are not certain or that you are not clear.

Leaders are confident when they speak or write. It is one of the reasons we trust leaders. We need to believe them when they speak.

Throwing around the word “just.” This topic first came to light because of Google and Apple alum Ellen Petry Leanse. She noticed that women were using the word ‘just’ much more than men. Petry Leanse stated, “’Just’ wasn’t about being polite, it was a subtle message of subordination and deference…, striking it from a phrase clarified the request and made it more powerful.” Busi-ness Insider

When we talk about language, we also need to include non-verbal language.

Body language is nonverbal, but it communicates volumes about you none-the-less. Professor Emeritus of Psychology at UCLA, Dr. Albert Mehrabian teaches that “Communication is 55% body language, 38% tone of voice and 7% words.” So how you carry yourself when engaged in conversation, enter a room or step onto a stage is often as important, if not more important than what you say. Wikipedia

Mastering your non-verbal communication can increase your ability to lead by building instant trust and with your audience.

This is also evident in the research and teaching of Harvard Social Psychologist and TED Talk phenomenon Amy Cuddy, author of Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges. Ted Talks

Cuddy shows how “power posing” — standing with confident and open posture (even when we’re not feeling very confident) can affect the testosterone and cortisol levels in our brain. The commanding position can increase testosterone levels that result in a sharp, clear mind and may also decrease cortisol levels that can reduce stress and nervousness. No doubt these physiological benefits will affect your success.

Key 4: Online Presence: Are you representing the qualities of a leader on all of your online platforms?

There are numerous stories about people who represented themselves as accomplished, but were discredited when evidence to the contrary was found online.

An important thing to remember is that if it is online, it can be found. When people visit your online world they should consistently see and experience a cohesive visual voice.

Your online presence is a foundational aspect of your personal brand. Here are a few important guidelines for your online presence:

• Use professional photos for headshots on all platforms
• Be consistent with your images on all platforms
• Be consistent with your brand/marketing messaging
• Keep your personal opinions to yourself unless those opinions directly tie to your brand messaging

The online expression of your personal brand will attract your ideal audience. By creating a professional, consistent, confident image online, your audience will trust you more and will view you as a leader.

Key 5: Customer Experience: Are you creating an exceptional experience?

Your personal brand is your customer’s overall experience of you. From their first impression to the follow-up and beyond can mean the difference between satisfied clients and loyal customers who can’t wait to rave about you–the difference between ordinary and extraordinary.

Let’s consider some top names in customer experience like Apple, Nordstrom, Disney, Starbucks and Zappos. My research found that these companies collaboratively learn from each other.

You may be asking, what does this have to do with your personal brand? Sadly, there are many experts/businesses whose services and products are high quality, but they’re missing the mark when it comes to the customer’s experience.

What might they be missing? It comes down to company culture and systemized implementation. Think of creating a serve-first, brand-aligned culture within your business, whether you’re a solo-preneur or have a team of 1,250.

With every fine detail, ask yourself: Will this touch point serve and enhance my customer’s experience? Will it make them feel valued? Is it brand aligned?

At the end of the day, people follow those they trust and your personal brand is the key to unlocking that trust. The goal in building your personal brand as a leader is to infuse your values into your brand and culture at every opportunity.

Whether people are experiencing you in person or online, your personal brand is what will set you apart from the masses.


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