Personal Branding: It's Not About Self-Promotion, It Is a Leadership Imperative

When you live your Personal Brand, you are being true to yourself; and that comes through when you're interacting with others -- colleagues, other leaders and stakeholders.
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Let me begin with two key questions: What is Personal Branding and why do I believe that it is a leadership imperative?

Think about your Personal Brand as the collection of values you stand for and the offerings you consistently deliver. Be clear on what differentiates you and your unique value proposition from others. There is only one you, after all. What are the special assets, skills and experience you bring to the table? How do you want to be known?

Your Personal Brand is like your Trademark, which is why it must be carefully managed and protected. It is not a list of accomplishments or an exercise in self-promotion. That's an important distinction.

Why is it a leadership imperative? Because when you live your Personal Brand, you are being true to yourself; and that comes through when you're interacting with others -- colleagues, other leaders and stakeholders. It contributes to authentic leadership because you're acting in a way that's consistent with your vision of who you are, what you're good at and what matters most to you -- both professionally and personally.

What's my Personal Brand? I'm known as a scientist-turned-business leader. I'm considered an optimistic and positive leader -- even in the face of tremendous challenges. I'm also passionate about science and medicine, and the power they have to positively impact people's lives.

So how do you build your brand? To truly live your brand, you must first define it. What are you passionate about? In what do you consider yourself an expert? For what do you want to be known? How will you tell your story? Remember: only you can tell it. And that's exciting.

Taking the time to define your Personal Brand Statement is invaluable. It's a tremendous learning experience. What's more, it also enhances your ability to achieve your career goals. Getting started is the hard part, however. It requires self-analysis and introspection, something at which many of us -- including me -- do not excel. After the first step, the rest is relatively easy and the rewards cannot be overstated. I challenge each of you to live your own brand. You may be surprised where it takes you!

With my focus on Personal Branding as the backdrop, I'd also like to share a few other tips.

Be proactive. When it comes to your career, you need to own it. To me, that means being personally accountable for your own professional growth, and playing an important part in managing it. It means doing a great job in your current role and finding ways to develop new skills and capabilities for your next one. It also means taking on new and different roles --
especially high-profile ones -- that challenge your current expertise. High-risk can often equal high-reward. We need to empower more women to be courageous and take chances.

Be visible. As Sheryl Sandberg said in Lean In, women need a seat at the table. Always think about your points of difference: who you are and how you want to be known. When meeting new people, don't lose sight of the little things. Introduce yourself, have business cards on hand, and when you can, do some advance research on the colleagues you'll be meeting. Check LinkedIn. Having something in common always helps with relationship-building.

As well, apply the Personal Brand discussion externally so that you are visible outside of your company. I've been working for many years to build an external brand. Look for opportunities to network, serve on Boards and committees, and attend events that while external to your company, are relevant to the work you're doing right now. To this point, I belong to The Committee of 200 (C200), a by-invitation, membership organization of some of the world's foremost business women. We share best practices with each other, provide personal introductions and professional advice as well as mentor the upcoming generation of female C-suite executives and entrepreneurs.

You will be amazed at how this external perspective helps sharpen your skills internally!

Be passionate. Ask yourself, what are you passionate about? Once you identify that, prepare, persevere, embrace risks and don't be afraid of a challenge, as scary as it may appear. Personally, I am passionate about having a positive impact on others through my work, whether for patients, customers, colleagues or the business.

Be flexible. We've all heard that old saying about change being the only constant. In this industry, that's certainly the case. Will the changes be challenging? Probably, but remaining flexible and optimistic will make for an easier transition wherever you go in your career.

Be a team player. I'm a firm believer in collaboration. Today's problems are too complex to think that any one individual has the answer. It's about consulting widely, but then acting decisively; making sure that multiple opinions are heard, but at the end of the day, not letting decisions linger. Teaming up with colleagues to work through a challenging situation energizes me, and I am lucky to have a great team.

Be your own biggest fan. I've learned that I need to be my own greatest champion. Your manager is, of course, fully aware of what you do, but no one knows your skills, experiences and contributions better than you yourself. I encourage my group heads to continually look for opportunities to surface their great work and compliments they've received. I also encourage them to take the time to be someone else's biggest fan! Recognize good work wherever you see it. Take the time to thank someone for their efforts. Small gestures go a long way.

Be happy. Let's face it; we spend more time in the office than we do anywhere else, so we need to make the best of it. We are fortunate to work in an industry that saves, enhances and improves lives through medical innovation. How can you not be happy about that? After all, if you find something that you love doing, it really doesn't feel like work.

We all face challenges -- at work and in life -- but what's most important is how we respond to those challenges. Take them in stride, think about what they can teach you, and be positive... You may be surprised to discover that your upbeat outlook is contagious.

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