As a leader, you’re focused at being the best in your industry. After all, you’ll be leading the rest of the professionals in your company or group, so you have to stay ahead of the curve.

 But what about differentiating yourself from industry peers?

To maintain a competitive edge, you should focus on creating a clear professional distinction and enhancing your personal leadership brand. You never know when the next career opportunity might fall into your lap, so follow the “always be prepared” motto.

Define Your Personal Leadership Brand

The first step to differentiating yourself from your peers is to establish your personal leadership brand. To do this, you need to define yourself and outline your goals.

  • What do you want to accomplish within the next six months? Year? Five years? You should have a solid road map for the future of your career.
  • What is it that you do best? What do you want to be known for as a leader? Navigating change? Your expertise in a specific industry?
  • What steps do you have to take to accomplish these goals? Are your SMART goals aligned with your prior expertise, or are you venturing into a new niche?

Create Your Brand Identity

These days, the Internet is a primary platform for personal branding. With social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter and Facebook, the social web is where potential connections may seek you out or discover you first.

An active presence on these platforms is essential to remain competitive today. Here’s a look at the most prominent social networks and how they’re useful for establishing your personal brand:

  • LinkedIn – The ideal platform for professionals, LinkedIn has a larger base of professional users and a tighter focus on careers and business networking. Follow companies and engage with other leaders in your space. Establish your own brand by answering questions, posting informative updates and encouraging dialogue.
  • Facebook – Facebook has a more casual feel, but it’s become a major platform for B2C and even B2B marketing. Set up a Facebook page for your personal entity, whether you run a consulting company or simply as a known leader.
  • Twitter – Twitter is a useful platform for keeping tabs on the conversations happening in your space online today. By following well-known leaders in your industry, you can keep track of the latest news, research and what’s ticking with consumers. Follow users of interest, and get involved in the conversation. Ask questions to gauge interest in new topics for your next book or speaking engagement, get feedback on blog posts and other content, and generate interest in your work.
  • Google+ – Google+ is sometimes criticized as a social network, but it’s worth your attention. Because it’s run by the same company that basically rules the world of search marketing, you’ll get tremendous SEO value by staying active on the platform. Like Twitter, you can connect with other users without their explicit permission by adding them to your Circles—giving you more opportunities to connect over the long run.
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There are dozens of other social networks, and some are focused in specific industries. ActiveRain, for example, is geared towards real estate professionals.

Find out what platforms exist in your industry and join in the discussion.

Join Professional Associations

When it comes time to seek new consulting or speaking gigs, you’re going to want to have a robust CV or portfolio to show off. If you have professional credentials, that’s a good place to start.

But joining industry associations is also a great way to set yourself apart from the competition. There are also educational opportunities offered through professional membership groups, which provide you with even more credentials and certifications under your belt.

There are a number of leadership-focused associations that can help you further your expertise in broad topic areas valuable across many industries:

You should also look for regional associations and groups, such as The Boston Club, an association for women leaders in the Northeast.

There are dozens of other groups, such as those for women executives and small business owners, which can provide tremendous benefits and add to your credibility as a leader as well as provide opportunities to build valuable relationships.

Align Yourself with Your Vision and Image

Once you’ve established your personal brand identity and vision for your future, align yourself with it. Put yourself out there as an expert in your industry and seek opportunities to enhance brand recognition.

If you’re invited to speak at an event, do so. Keep establishing and nurturing professional relationships. Commit to making your vision a reality, and market yourself at every opportunity.

Capitalize on your unique skills and experiences to create a personal brand that sets you apart from your peers. Don’t attempt to be the best at everything. Stick to being the best at being you.

It takes work to establish a personal brand. But once you do, you’ll have potential clients and other opportunities knocking at your door.

How Can You Define Your Leadership Brand?

If you have ideas that you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Katelyn Roberts
Katelyn follows Policy Research Associates targets professional training programs in a variety of fields to help professionals gain a competitive advantage.
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