Business · Public Relations

The Single Most Important Component of a Personal Brand by Bud Bilanich

Dwight Eisenhower knew a thing or two about personal branding. His brand was so strong, he became the Allied Supreme Commander in WWII and then a US President. I’ve always liked what he has to say about integrity, an important component of a personal brand.

The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.

Integrity is key to creating the life and career success you want and deserve. Tweet 62 in my book, Success Tweets, says, “Your personal brand should be uniquely you, but built on integrity. Integrity is doing the right thing when no one is looking.”

I tell my career mentoring clients that there are two common sense steps for developing and nurturing your personal brand.

  • Figure out how you want people to think of you.
  • Consistently and constantly act in a manner that will lead them to think of you that way.

Then I tell that that regardless of what they choose as their brand, make sure they build it on integrity.

According to Wikipedia, “Integrity is consistency of actions, values, methods, measures and principles.” It’s true, integrity and consistency are intertwined. People who are consistent in their actions are most often seen as people with a high degree of integrity.

Oprah says, “Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.” This is true. If you practice situational ethics – doing the right thing only when you’re in the public eye — you aren’t really a person of high integrity, you’re just pretending to be one.

Besides, it’s hard to act one way in public, and another in private. So to be safe, listen to Oprah. Do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do – not because you’ll get credit, or avoid getting into trouble.

There’s a practical side to this too. Mark Twain once said, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” In other words, if you’re always a person of high integrity, it’s easy to be a person of high integrity; there are no complicating factors – like remembering what you did or said in a given situation.

Polonius gave similar advice to Hamlet. “To thine own self be true, and it must follow as the day the night, thou canst be false to no man.” Roy Blackman, my father in law, passed away several years ago. This quote was his epitaph. It was on the program handed out at his funeral. Roy embodied it in how he lived his life. It was the only piece of advice he gave his grandson when he went off to college.

Oprah, Mark Twain and Shakespeare are all in agreement on one common sense piece of career advice. If you want to become known as a person of high integrity, and integrity should be the cornerstone of any personal brand, act as a person of high integrity all the time – not just when it suits you, or when someone might notice.

Here’s a story to illustrate this point. Cathy, my wife, was a flight attendant for 36 years. Seniority is a very important thing in the airline industry. It governs how you bid for trips, positions on the airplane and vacations – almost anything important to a flight attendant’s quality of work life.

A few years before she retired, Cathy’s airline made a big push into the international market. International flights were plum assignments; they went to people with high seniority.

However, the airline realized that it would be to their advantage to have some flight attendants who spoke the language of the country to which they were flying on these international flights. Most senior flight attendants in her airline, Cathy included, spoke English only. The airline proposed putting two “language speakers” – often lower level in seniority, but with the ability to speak the language of the country to which they were flying — on each international flight. Many people, including Cathy, were upset with this arrangement as they felt it violated the seniority concept.

Cathy used to fly from the US to London. One day I said to her, “This whole language speaker issue doesn’t really affect you. You fly to London; there are no language speakers on those flights. Why do you care so much?” She said, “I believe in the concept of seniority. It doesn’t matter if I’m affected by language speakers. It’s the principle of the thing.” That’s consistency – and integrity — in action.

The career mentor point here is simple common sense. Successful people follow the advice in Tweet 62 in Success Tweets. “Your personal brand should be uniquely you, but built on integrity. Integrity is doing the right thing when no one is looking.” When you build your brand on integrity, you’ll be more likely to succeed – as a leader like Dwight Eisenhower, or in whatever you choose to do.


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