“Brand Promise” is one of the buzz words that I hear about a lot. Everyone from cities to corporations to individual leaders is being urged to focus on branding. I’m not sure that I fully understand all of the nuances of branding. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I don’t. What I do know is that your brand is not what you say it is—your brand is what they say it is. I don’t know who “they” are to you; but whoever they are, they are external—not internal.
I am convinced that even though the term “brand” may sound superficial, your real brand is very substantive. To me, one of the entities with the best brand is Starbucks. I don’t know how Starbucks wants to brand itself, but I know this: whether I am in a small city, an urban jungle, or an upscale suburb, if I go into a Starbucks, the coffee tastes the same in every single setting, time after time after time. It is that “brand promise” that keeps me going back, seeking them out, and setting meetings at Starbucks with irrational devotion. It is what I count on from Starbucks, and they always deliver. Always.
What does this have to do with leadership? A long time ago, Stephen Covey wrote that the way to increase your self-esteem was to make a promise and keep it. Covey submitted that if you would keep your promises, you would start to feel better about yourself—and for good reason. I think the same is true for branding. I don’t dispute that it is important. You need a brand as leader. Well actually, you have one already whether you realize it or not. In some cases, your brand (what others say about you) may be a million miles away from the “image” you are trying to portray. What do you do about that? Make a promise and keep it. Always.
What is the one thing that you as a leader want others to really be able to count on from you? Whatever it is—and it needs to intersect the pressing needs of the day and the deepest passions of your heart—then make a promise to yourself and to others that people will always be able to count on that from you. Do that, and it will cut through the dysfunctional behavior that may plague your organization. It will protect you from rationalizing poor behavior. It will cause people to look at you in a much more positive light; and yes, as Covey suggested, it will make you feel better about yourself as a leader—and for good reason.