Does your personal brand build your people power? People Power - Nov 2015
By Sam Allman
There is power in being or having a brand name. A Harvard Business Review article from several years ago warned that without a brand identity, you will forever labor in a marketplace dictated by price and delivery. Worse yet, you will have to compete with each new competitor who comes along, not a fun or profitable place to be. Whether it’s a product, a company or a person, a strong brand wields power.
In the marketplace, a strong brand wields profit; in the world of people, it wields influence. In the marketplace, a brand name increases the value of a product. That value allows for it to be sold at prices higher than competing products and prevents it from being sold as a commodity. Branded products are generally more profitable. In the world of people, a strong brand adds value to influence and leadership, and it mobilizes people. Your brand can increase your people power. What about you? Does the brand called “you” increase your people power or do you get lost, like commodities, in a crowd of people?
Former chairman of the Communist Party of China Mao Zedong said, “[Political] power grows out of a barrel of a gun.” Coercive power may occasionally work, but only short term. People power is not acquired by coercion or force, because loyalty and influence cannot be demanded, they can only be granted. You may garner some power or influence over others by giving a reward or giving something others may want, which is called reward or utility power. Donating to a candidate running for a political office is an example of utility power. Again, its effects are only short term. You can buy someone’s hands and wallet, but you cannot buy their heart.
So, from where does the most effective people power come? It’s the power that comes from honor. The power is based on the principles of honor, trust and respect for the individual. A person with people power has volunteer followers. They choose, of their own freewill, to listen, be influenced and follow because of the trust and respect they have for this person with people power. That’s why Blaine Lee, in his book The Power Principle, said that “…you will never be more effective as a leader than you are as a person.”
Brand loyalty is the business version of patriotism. I see that patriotism when an Apple user talks about the advantages of an Apple computer over a typical PC; when citizens give applause for soldiers in the airport coming home; when I see the passion Harley Davidson enthusiasts permanently tattoo its logo on their bodies; when people promote a political candidate for whom they have passion; and when people talk about a person they honor because of the difference that person has made in their lives. The passion and loyalty are the same, whether the brand is a person or a product. Honor comes from a good name or public esteem, merited respect or from a keen sense of ethical conduct.
A brand is also a unique identity with a promise. Interestingly, many of the reasons customers buy brands are the same reasons an individual with people power has loyal followers. Think about it: Which brands do you buy? To which brands are you loyal? I buy brands because I know what to expect. They almost always deliver what they promise. They are always the same. Rarely are my expectations unmet. Because of that, I trust the brands I buy and I remain loyal.
Building a personal brand will increase your people power. The processes of branding for a product or a person are the same. I hear many of you saying under your breath, why do I want to be branded? I have no desire to be famous or well known. But the most important reason to create a personal brand is that it increases your trustworthiness; it increases your ability to connect and create rapport with others; and it builds your people power. Trust is the foundation of all relationships. Without it, there will always be hesitancy. Mahatma Gandhi said, “The moment there is suspicion about a person’s motives, everything he does becomes tainted.”
Whether you like it or not, as you interact with others, you are building the brand called “you,” consciously or unconsciously. You can make your brand memorable or you can make it forgettable. If you want to be honored by others, which will increase your “people power,” you must be authentic. You must be the real thing; you can’t be a fake. Authenticity is the state of being genuine or being real.
Everywhere I travel, someone wants to sell a fake brand to my wife or me, be it a faux Rolex watch, Coach purse or Oakley sunglasses. They tell me that it’s just as good as the real thing, but it’s cheaper. But it rarely is. These products are as counterfeit as fake people are. Authentic people are trustworthy, genuine, believable and reliable. They live by standards of conduct against core principles, such as fairness, respect and integrity—accepted principles of right and wrong. These people conform to fact or are speakers of truth. Authentic people know who they are, what they believe and what they value. They are the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Fake people conform to the situation; they do what’s expedient instead of what’s right. Conformity means behaving with current customs, rules or styles. They change their values as the weather changes or as it benefits them. They may do it to be liked or accepted. They may stretch or embellish the truth or just lie. The problem is that inconsistency leads to uncertainty, and uncertainty hurts trust.
Authentic people are consistent and persistent. They live by their promise. Unlike product branding, where the story or message must be told well and often, their personal brand messages are told by example. Their brands’ stories are lived, not told. They are their stories. They are deeply aware of how they think and behave. They reflect often on their actions, evaluating if they are congruent with their values and beliefs. They are aware of how they are perceived by others and are aware of the context in which they operate. They are confident, hopeful, optimistic, resilient and high on moral character. They understand that by building authenticity in themselves, they develop authentic capacity in those who honor them.
I have a friend whose authenticity saved him from being booted from the U.S Air Force. He was a fighter pilot. Fighter pilots are randomly tested for drugs. One positive test can get you thrown out of the squadron. One time his blood tested a high positive for alcohol. Everyone knew he didn’t drink and wouldn’t drink. That test was thrown out because no one even considered it being valid. His personal brand overrode the results of the test.
I believe authenticity starts with personal reflection. We need to ask ourselves the questions: What are my values and beliefs? How do I want to be remembered? What would I like written on my tombstone? Am I currently living my life according to my values? From whence do I receive my power? Does it come from being the boss? From my expertise? From my charisma? Or do I receive my power from the honor other’s grant to me? I believe authentic people self-reflect often. Reflection breeds awareness. That awareness leads to change when it is needed. If you are unaware that you need to change, you are clueless!
Making your brand authentic requires that you take responsibility for who you are and how you act. Authentic people don’t blame, shame and justify. They are concerned with what’s right, rather than who’s right. Authentic leaders live by the words of Lao Tzu, philosopher in ancient China, “A leader is best when people barely know he exists…[b]ut of a good leader, who talks little, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” In other words, if their teams fail, they take the responsibility. If they succeed, their teams are given the credit. Nelson Mandela said, “It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.”
Paradoxically, by taking credit for failure and giving recognition for success, authentic leaders increase their people power. President John F. Kennedy could have easily blamed the Bay of Pigs fiasco on his advisors. His approval rating skyrocketed after he humbly took responsibility for the failure when he addressed the nation on TV. Frankly, although the country did well when he was president, I struggle to believe anything former president Bill Clinton says because of a failure to admit the truth. When it comes to authenticity, you are responsible; everything you do and say counts; you must walk the talk. Authentic people are transparent, are real with whom they are and act with integrity. What you see is what you get. “Always aim at complete harmony of thought and word and deed,” Mahatma Gandhi instructed.
Finally, authentic people are confident, hopeful, optimistic, resilient and high on moral character. Those qualities build hope. Hope keeps us all going. It gives us reasons to persevere when life gets difficult. So, when things are hard, remind yourself and those around you that tough times don’t last; they are only temporary and isolated events. Those qualities attract others and create motivation in them to lengthen their strides and try harder. It’s just a fact: authentic men and women make me believe in me, that I can do better. I want to be like them; I want to emulate them. After all, I have trust in their brands. Their brands have people power.
Copyright 2015 Floor Focus
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