Your leadership brand — how you show up as a leader and how you’re perceived — is becoming increasingly important. Both employees and employers are becoming more aware of what they do and don’t want in managers, and if you’re not able to articulate your leadership brand (and live up to your brand’s promise), you may lose opportunities to those who can.

The great news is that everyone can get clearer about what they offer as leaders. It takes both self-reflection and a little bit of data collection, but it’s definitely doable. And the work you put in to create your leadership brand now will also help you become a better manager in the future.

To define your leadership brand, you need to clarify five elements for yourself:

  1. Principles (what you stand for)
  2. Superpowers (what you’re great at)
  3. Leadership skills (essential skills every leader needs)
  4. Your reputation (how you’re known)
  5. Your legacy (what you’ll leave behind)

1. Principles (What You Stand For)

The first thing I work on with clients when they’re defining their leadership brand is principles. These are the bedrock values you live by: things like honesty, harmony, a sense of humor, abundance and strength (or Truth, Justice, and the American Way, if you’re Superman).

Knowing your principles is key for a couple of different reasons. When you act in accordance with your principles, you’re acting authentically, and you’re in harmony with what you hold dear. This alignment is what allows us to feel fulfilled and happy. Conversely, things that conflict with your principles can make you irrationally furious — or at least more frustrated than average.

Principles can also be key differentiators between people in similar roles (like you and the person who had the role before you, or you and the other candidate for promotion).

2. Superpowers (What You’re Great At)

Anybody who has put together a résumé has had a taste of superpowers. These are action verbs that describe what you do, and do well. But to be of service to you with your leadership brand, superpowers need to go beyond the résumé.

For example, my bio says I coach leaders. While that’s true, it’s a little “meh” for a superpower. My superpower is seeing the highest potential in my clients and holding them accountable to their goals. Much more superpowery — and more likely to support my leadership brand and differentiate me from others who do similar things.

3. Leadership Skills (Essential Skills Every Leader Needs)

I believe there are five essential skills that every leader needs: compassion, curiosity, communication, vision, and resilience. Of course, how they come to life will depend on your principles and superpowers, and how you express these skills can help you solidify your leadership brand.

Leaders need compassion to relate well with the people on their team. But compassion could look different for someone who leads with a principle of justice and a superpower of directing complex projects as compared to another leader who leads with a principle of flexibility and a superpower of public speaking.

Curiosity allows space for other opinions, communication gives teams essential information, vision connects your team with their goals, and resilience helps teams bounce back when things don’t go according to plan.

Knowing how these five skills come to life for you as a leader will help you define your leadership style and become more intentional in how you lead.

4. Reputation (How You’re Known)

Collecting feedback about your management and how your leadership brand is showing up for others is critical for improvement and growth. Most leaders get this type of feedback from 360-degree reviews.

Most leaders are uncomfortable with 360-degree feedback, but having the opportunity to hear how others perceive you is a gift that can help you focus your development efforts.

Just don’t over-index on the negative. A client of mine who had the best 360-degree scores and feedback I’ve seen in my career was debriefing his survey with me. He completely ignored the spectacular feedback he received from his team to focus on a single comment he received about his style from a peer. After talking it through, he was able to put the one comment into perspective and celebrate the responses he’d received that validated his hard work to shift his leadership presence in the prior year.

5. Legacy (What You’ll Leave Behind)

You may think that a future-oriented element like your legacy shouldn’t have a place in your leadership brand. But by knowing what impact you want to leave your team and your organization with, you can more easily shape what you’re doing every day to ensure you leave the legacy you intend to. Why leave it to chance?

Selecting your principles and superpowers, figuring out how the five leadership skills show up, collecting feedback about your reputation and deciding what legacy you want to leave will equip you well in defining your leadership brand.

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