If you were to remove your work from your personal brand, what would others say about you? For many leaders, the answer is not much. But to be a great leader, you need to stand for more than just your work. Just as high schoolers strive to be seen as "well-rounded" on their college applications, business leaders should aim to live multi-dimensional lives. Being about more than your job helps you connect with people, expand your interests and skills, and identify new opportunities. In short, effective leadership is about integrating and leveraging the many aspects of being an interesting, engaged human being.
Here's how to make well-roundedness part of your leadership brand.
Seek Out New Skills and Experiences
Great leaders are flexible, adaptable and interested in new ideas. Make it a personal policy to extend your skill set, make new connections and seek new challenges. These can be closely related to your work, complementary to it, or utterly divergent from what you do on a daily basis. By throwing yourself into a variety of tasks, hobbies, and opportunities, you'll expose yourself to new ideas, perspectives and ways of thinking. These can in turn help inform your approach to leadership. Make it a personal goal to keep learning, and to encourage your teams to do the same. You'll become more rounded as a leader, while also positioning yourself to identify and take advantage of a variety of new possibilities.
Aim to Give Back
Business leaders are often community leaders as well. If your business serves a particular community or area, consider ways you can better serve your community. This may be through volunteer work, events and initiatives or sponsorships. Depending on your niche, your product or service may be the thing that you leverage in giving back. A builder may help with rebuilding or restoration initiatives, while a CPA may offer financial literacy training to school kids. Use these initiatives as a chance to get your staff involved, and always ensure that the primary goal is to help, not just to take advantage of a PR opportunity.
Become the Face of Your Work
Too often we're told simply to let our work speak for itself. However, that sentiment ignores the fact that there's a human behind that work - and that increasingly stakeholders, employees, and customers want to learn about that person and their story. It's much easier to invest in a brand when you understand the passion, hard work and motivation behind it, and great leaders perfectly embody those attributes. Let your passion, goals, and ideas shine through in what you do. Don't stand in the background of your brand: you and your story are a vital part of rounding out your brand's identity.
Focus on Your Soft Skills
You may play softball on the weekends, volunteer at a children's hospital and be the parent to multiple adopted pets, but none of that matters if you're only seen as a hard-nosed dealmaker. Take the time to build up soft skills such as communication, empathy, teamwork, decision-making and problem-solving. These skills will help humanize you, making it possible to create deeper connections with employees and stakeholders. Be mindful of how you're perceived, and strive to share the parts of you that go beyond work.
Becoming a well-rounded leader isn't just a nice to have. It's a must if you're to thrive in today's always-on, reputation-sensitive world. If you're been hyper-focused on your work, take a step back to consider how you can become the kind of multi-dimensional leader that consumers look up to and other leaders aspire to be.