10 Steps to Lead with Your Personal Brand, not Your Title!

10-Steps-to-Lead-with-Your-Personal-Brand-not-Your-Title-Peter-SterlacciGuess what CEO, COO, CFO, CIO, CMO? At the end of the day, that title of yours really means nothing. CxOs are a dime a dozen and beyond the initial ‘wow factor’ that you might receive by telling someone you are Chief ‘Something’ Officer, that is where it ends. That fancy title actually ‘commodifies’ you even at the executive level, and people simply do not get excited about commodities!

Your true ‘wow factor’ comes from how your personal brand defines your leadership.” ~Peter Sterlacci Tweet This!

 10 Steps to Lead with Your Personal Brand

How can your ‘leader brand’ differentiate you from all the other CxOs out there? Follow these 10 steps to uncover and maintain the ‘wow factor’ of your leader brand.

1. Know Yourself to Grow Yourself

Do you know how others see you? Is there a gap between how you view your leadership and how those around you do? The first step to grow yourself is to know yourself and this involves both internal reflection and gathering external feedback.

The 360˚Reach Personal Brand Assessment enables you to gather data regarding the attributes, skills, competencies and strengths that define your brand. The process begins with a self-assessment and is followed by requesting feedback from others so you can compare how you view yourself with how you are currently perceived. The results will enable you to identify areas that you want to accentuate and areas you want to diminish as you define your leader brand.

2. Articulate your VPs

The foundation of your leader brand is called your “VPs” – vision, purpose, values, and passions.

  • Vision: Your image of what you see possible for the world – your desired future.
  • Purpose: Your role in turning your vision into reality.
  • Values: The ideals or operating principles that determine how you conduct your day-to-day activities. Your values are true to you and you do not compromise them.
  • Passions: This is what motivates and energizes you. Your passions get you out of bed in the morning, but as a leader always have ‘pure unadulterated tenacity’ to drive your passions forward.

3. Define your Target Audience

When leading your job is not to be ‘famous’, but rather to be ‘selectively famous’. In other words, identify the people who need your leadership and communicate your leader brand only to them. This target audience are the only ones who need to know you. They are the ones who will ultimately make the critical decision to follow you. Once you know your target audience, do everything in your power to nurture them.

4. Tell Your Story

Michael Margolis, founder of Get Storied, says,

“Your story is your brand. You have to get others to believe and identify with your story. When you can do that — the need to persuade, convince, or sell disappears.”

You have a unique story to tell and that story is what makes your leader brand authentic. Of course others can relate to your story because it may be similar, but it is never exactly the same. Each story is unique.  Focus on those things that make you unique and capitalize on them. Perhaps your credentials and experience got you into your leadership role, but your character and story is what will compel people to follow you.

5. Create Your ‘Leader Brand Statement’

What do you want to be known for? Having an answer to this question defines what your target audience can expect from your leadership. Remember, this statement is NOT your title! It is also not your personal mission or life purpose. It is a memorable 1-2 sentence statement that is solutions oriented. Here is a great template to use when crafting your leader brand statement:

“I want to be known for being __________ so that I can deliver __________ to __________.”

It is vital that you truly identify with your leader brand statement. You need to live and breathe this every day so take the time to make sure it best represents who you are and what you can do.

6. Build Your Brand Communication Plan

Visualize your brand communication plan as the wheels on a bicycle. Without wheels you cannot move! This plan allows your leadership to move forward.

The center of a wheel, the hub, keeps the spokes together. Likewise the center of your plan is the core leadership message you want to communicate to your target audience. Your communication vehicles, or spokes, radiate out of your core message and provide the support to keep your plan together. These may include presenting at conferences, joining professional organizations, using social media, creating a blog, writing an article or book for publication, etc.

Select a mix of vehicles that you will enjoy doing and will actually enable your leadership to reach your target audience. Remember, a broken spoke makes a wheel wobble and lose its strength. Select vehicles that you are strong at, or at least ones you are happy to make stronger. Schedule these ‘spokes’ into your calendar and commit to executing and repeating them.

7. Follow the 3Cs of Branding

Now that you know what you want to be known for and have a communication plan in place, remember to always follow the three C’s of branding – clarity, consistency, and constancy.

  • Clarity: Always be very clear about who you are and who you are not. By knowing your unique promise of value you are identifying what sets your apart from other CxOs. This is what differentiates you and allows you to attract brand loyalty among the people who are compelled to do business with you.
  • Consistency: Once you are clear about your promise of value, consistently demonstrate your brand promise everywhere. This includes your social media profiles, your website, your business cards, your communications. Everything.
  • Constancy: It is not enough to be clear and consistent if you are not always visible to your target audience. Strong leader brands are constant. They are always there for their customers, prospects, and those who can help them achieve their  goals. Be visible or run the risk of being forgotten!

8. Live in the Inquiry

Regular maintenance of your leader brand is necessary so live in the inquiry and always ask yourself if what you are doing or saying is on-brand or off-brand.  Is it contributing to your leadership message or distracting from it? Google yourself regularly to see if there is anything off-brand.  Ask for direct feedback from your community or do another 360Reach personal brand assessment to check if others see your brand in the same way you have been presenting it. If you find yourself going off-brand, take a moment to stop, assess what has happened, and get back on-brand as quickly as possible. By being on-brand your credibility is maintained.

9. Adapt and Adjust

Your leader brand isn’t static. It should evolve in response to the different expectations you face at different times in your career. Have the self-awareness to evolve your brand and if necessary even reinvent your leader brand.

10. Rinse and Repeat!

On a yearly basis go back to Step 1 and start again. It is important to establish the habit of re-assessing your leader brand and creating a new plan for the year. Has your vision or purpose changed? Do you have a new target audience? Are you no longer living your leader brand statement? Was there inconsistency in how your communicated your brand?

In the end, it is vital for any one of us, not just CxOs, to lead without a title. Perhaps Robin Sharma, author of The Leader Who Had No Title, said it best:

“Regardless of what you do in your organization, the single most important fact is that you have the power to show leadership.”

Follow the 10 steps above and you too will show your leader brand!

About Peter Sterlacci

Known as "Japan’s Personal Branding Pioneer", Peter Sterlacci is a sought-after speaker, trainer, and consultant about using personal branding to enhance career and life success. As a long-term resident of Japan—where “fitting in” is the cultural norm—Peter intimately understands the challenges facing Japanese to “stand-out” and is dedicated to leading a 'culture-shift' in Japan by empowering people to uncover their unique promise of value and be remarkable. Peter is one of only 15 Master level Certified Personal Branding Strategists in the world. He is an active blogger on personal branding and is Editor-in-Chief of one of the largest personal branding newsletters in the world. He also capitalizes on his 21-year career in cross-cultural training consulting in his powerful messaging. He lives in Kyoto with his wife and daughter and can often be found cycling around town or in the countryside.


  1. Laura Bacci says:

    What a fantastic post Peter!
    In today’s economic environment no-one can bank on working for the same company for ever. We don’t take our job titles with us when we switch jobs or decide to do a U-turn in our career paths. But our own personal brands come with us wherever we go. So it is worth investing time in creating personal brands that are purposeful, resonant and create value. Thanks for this post. Laura

  2. Great post! Excellent tips!! A must read!!!

    Certainly, personal branding is the way to go. This is a very good guide on how to go about it. Thanks for showing the way!

  3. Great points you raise – I so agree with this and love Michael Margolis’ comment that “Your story is your brand. You have to get others to believe and identify with your story. When you can do that — the need to persuade, convince, or sell disappears.”
    I believe that what makes you unique makes you money – that you must stand for something and not get lost in a sea of ordinary and your personal leadership brand is a great place to start.

    • Thanks Heidi. Ever since I heard Michael Margolis say that statement it has stayed with me ever since and I always refer to it in any personal branding talk or seminar I do. I truly believe it. AND yes what makes you unique CAN make you money as long as you are proactive about uncovering, communicating, and managing that uniqueness. Thanks again.

  4. Easy to understand no-frills valuable advice Peter. Definitely on my top-ten-to-implement this year (and years to follow)!

  5. This post is simply awesome, Peter! Thanks for sharing.

    Kind regards,
    Ogwo David.

  6. Must read for anybody who strives to be authentic

  7. Waw, what a complete branding program. Thank you for sharing Peter. More leaders should take this into account.

    Have a nice day,


  8. Ali Paskun says:

    What a great post, Peter. Number 9 is especially important. I think the need to revisit and, if necessary, reinvent a brand is overlooked. Thank you for sharing these insights.

    • Peter Sterlacci says:

      Hi Ali. Yes, we all need to revisit and reinvent as needed. And getting external feedback from others on a yearly basis is a great way to do this. Branding is also about perception and we need to to know how others perceive us and then analyze the gaps in how we are hoping we are perceived. Thanks again for the comment.

    • Peter Sterlacci says:

      Hi Ali. Yes taking the time to revisit and reinvent our brand persona is critical. A great way is to do a yearly self-assessment and get external feedback from others about how they perceive our brand. Our personal brands are based on how others see us and then exploring the gaps and alignments in how we see ourselves. Thanks again for the comment.

  9. Excellent post Peter that’s packed with invaluable tips!

  10. Wow Peter, you could make a post on each of these 10 points! This was a fully loaded post for sure. Thank you for sharing them and the challenge to step up and take our leadership to the next level.


  11. A WOW Post Peter!
    You’ve beautifully encapsulated the entire personal branding paradigm and its value proposition for the leaders! So true dear…your title commodifies you along with the other me-too CXOs…if you truly wish to create an ICONIC distinction over others, Brand yourself today!

    • Peter Sterlacci says:

      Hey Tanvi. Glad you liked the post. I love the ICONIC reference and as you say leadership that is driven by our ICONIC value is certainly a way to make a distinctive impact. Thanks for the comment.

  12. Excellent post! I thoroughly enjoyed it and there is so much that I can take away with me. I so love the opening line – I always believe the honeymoon for all the fancy CxO’s really end once that person is introduced to the staff. -time to walk the talk. Thanks for sharing and also the opportunity given for me to leave comment. Again great post Peter!

    • Thanks Yvonne. Truly appreciate your comment and that you found it so useful. Love what you said about the honeymoon ending once the ‘new title’ is introduced. So true. Thanks again.

  13. Hi Peter, Wow! Boffo post! Leading with your Personal Brand gives you much greater reach than leading with your title. I especially like steps #4 and #8 and spend a lot of time with my clients on these two. People tend to underestimate the power of their story and often don’t notice at first when they are being pulled off-brand. Thank you. -Jeff

    • Peter Sterlacci says:

      Hey Jeff. Yes isn’t it amazing how it is so common to overlook the obvious – our story, our why, our character? We get so trapped into a culture of titles, credentials, and typical ‘resume-shit’ that we forget the most important thing – the person! Yes we need to express our credentials but not at the expense of our character. Thanks Jeff for the comment.

  14. Great stuff! I am going straight to step 10 today!


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