When we talk about authentic leadership, we focus on honing four key components of a person: values, vision, purpose, and brand. Values are what matter to us. They help us define what’s important and what isn’t. Vision is what we hope to achieve, and Purpose is why it’s worth achieving. Getting clear on those three components is SO critical for authentic leaders because it gives them the power to communicate who they are and what they stand for really effectively.
Brand, however, is a bit different. I call it the thumbprint of the individual. It’s the specific energy or vibe that a leader brings to her approach. When we talk about brand in the experiences we deliver, we put people through something called a “Brand-storming Wheel” which allows participants the opportunity to experiment with different flavors of themselves, and pick out the ones that make them feel the most alive.
I have several brand flavors that make me feel alive, and for people who are close to me, it’s no surprise that the flavor that tops the charts for me is Sparkly.
Whether it was meant as a compliment or not, the first time the word was used to describe me, I immediately went to my notebook and wrote it down. Sparkly was the coolest adjective EVER, and I wanted to make sure EVERYONE thought I was Sparkly!
When we get intentional about brand, we first identify the flavors that make us uniquely who we are (or want to be). Then we have to figure out how to make sure those flavors show up for ourselves and others in a way that is consistent and predictable. You can focus on four areas:
Behavior: How we act and react
Communication: How we speak, write, and interact
Personal Style: How we put ourselves together and present ourselves
Collateral: What we choose and create as representations of ourselves (our art, our social media profiles, our home, our resume, etc.)
Although I didn’t start out super intentional about being Sparkly, once I had settled on it as a brand flavor, I took some time to think about how being Sparkly would show up in each of these focus areas.
From the behavior and communication standpoints, Sparkly is all about being free with my joy. It’s about laughing easily. It’s about expressing my happiness fully and to hell with people who have a problem with that. I clap a lot. I giggle. I jump up and down and I express my delight unabashedly. This is part of how I choose to show up for myself and others. It is what allows me to feel joy more fully, and maybe, in some small way, pass that joy on.
From a personal style perspective, I think Sparkly is one of the flavors that influences my shoe choices. I am a shoe girl. I’m not always practical – in fact, most of the time I’m not – but the way I think about Sparkly certainly has nothing to do with practicality. It’s about being a bit sassy and unexpected, and probably a bit loud – especially when it comes to my shoes. I have a lot of stiletto pumps in obnoxious colors, and I LOVE to rock them loud and proud.
From a collateral perspective, Sparkly for me is about color. It’s no surprise that our wolf & heron brand uses the colors that it does. They’re unexpected and loud and a bit in your face, but fun as hell, and totally Sparkly – even though we don’t use glitter at all.
What’s worth noting, is that in some ways, my commitment to Sparkly may get misinterpreted as juvenile or immature. The fact that I laugh as freely as I do, and my commitment to wild and crazy colors isn’t necessarily received well in every environment. But that’s the point. By being me, fully, wholly, authentically me, and committing to my brand flavors, the world around me separates itself into the “Stephanie’s awesome” camp, and the “Stephanie’s not for me” camp. Then I can go about my business, making the impact I want to make, and doing it the way I want to do it, surrounded by the people who support my approach. The rest fade into the background and we don’t get in each other’s way.
What are your brand flavors? And how committed to them are you?
-- Stephanie Judd, co-founder, wolf & heron