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  • Writer's pictureJill Hauwiller

The Seven Critical Pillars of Your Personal Brand

When your purpose, values, energy and thoughts come together with a few other elements, you will have the foundation of your personal brand. As a leader or aspiring leader, recognizing your own unique contributions to the workplace can contribute to your career growth and success in unexpected ways. Taking ownership of your personal brand will help you stand out.

Just like product and consumer brands, each one of us has a personal brand that we may or may not be aware of. Our personal brand consists of the attributes, work styles, skills and more that people immediately associate with us. And just like consumer brands, you can shape and influence how you are perceived by spending time getting clear on what is most important to you.

In my work with executives and emerging leaders, I use the following seven pillars to assess and understand their personal brands in order to support their career growth.


Personal brand starts with purpose, which is a profound sense of who we are and why we’re here. Purpose is an active expression of the deepest dimension within us. We structure our lives and careers around our purpose and it provides us direction and internal motivation. While we may share goals and causes with others, our purpose is the unique essence of who we are and how we live.

In order to get deeper clarity on your purpose, you might want to reflect on or discuss the following questions with a trusted friend or mentor: What gives meaning to my life? What are my talents, and how do I use them to enhance my life and the lives of others? How energized and hopeful am I about today, and the future? This kind of alignment brings happiness and fulfillment in our personal and professional lives.


The second pillar of personal brand is values. What’s important to you in the way you live and work? This reflects your values. Living by our values feels good, so when work or personal decisions conflict with our values, we experience friction that can be a source of unhappiness and stress. Taking time to identify your values is important because it helps you respond with integrity at work and in relationships. The Harvard Graduate School of Education values-sort cards are a great tool to help you reflect on what is most important to you.

Brand Clarity And Authenticity

Brand clarity and authenticity are the third and fourth pillars of personal brand. Brand clarity is your intention for how you wish to be perceived by others. It’s your reputation. Authenticity and brand clarity are naturally linked for people with healthy personal brands. Being authentic is consistently being the truest version of yourself. People who are authentic are deeply connected to their purpose and it shows in their thoughts, words and actions.


Pillar five is your strengths. In recent years, many organizations have focused their leadership development training on helping high potential employees identify and build their innate talents. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that we’ll be more successful in our endeavors if we leverage our natural abilities. To make your strengths a core part of your personal brand, think about the types of problems or opportunities your colleagues, friends and clients bring to you. The common elements of these requests, combined with what you love doing, are likely your strengths (and may also give you some insight into brand clarity!). Many of my clients have found that StrengthsFinder 2.0 is a useful resource to help them identify their top five strengths.


The sixth pillar is energy. Your energy and mood affect your ability to achieve, and they also affect those around you. Know what professionally and personally depletes your energy levels and what restores or recharges you. Use this self-awareness to your benefit to anticipate the effect that certain types of projects and interactions will have on your energy.


The seventh and final pillar is legacy. This is not something to think about only at the end of your career or even as a particular role draws to an end. We have opportunities to build legacies throughout our careers. There is immense value in thinking about the legacy you want to leave in your current work or an upcoming project. A focus on legacy helps us determine what kind of work helps us live our authenticity and connects us to something larger than ourselves.

Taking Ownership Of Your Personal Brand

By reflecting on these seven pillars, you have the opportunity to asses how your understanding of your personal brand aligns with the way in which others are perceiving you. One of my clients found it incredibly helpful to come up with a list of words that she wanted others to use to describe her. To test her desires against her reality, I asked her to text 10 of her closest colleagues and friends to ask for three words that best describe her.

The result of that activity led to several meaningful coaching conversations about what she could do to create greater alignment between her intention and her impact. She began paying more careful attention to how she prepared for certain meetings, as well as what she said and did in the presence of senior leaders in her organization. The result just a few months later was a request to participate in a highly visible project that would provide her with not only new skills to help advance her career but an even broader, more robust cross-functional network within the organization.

To understand and build your personal brand, start with a self-assessment on the seven pillars: purpose, values, brand clarity, authenticity, strengths, energy and legacy. Use what you learn about yourself to decide where to spend your time and energy to work on enhancing your personal brand. But keep in mind, it is no accident that the first pillar of personal brand is purpose. Understanding your purpose will provide the direction you need to build the remaining pillars and transform your career with a strong personal brand.

*This article first appeared on Forbes.


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