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The organizational dilemma

What should you worry about if you are the leader of an organization where everyone is starting to focus on building their personal brands. How much should you care? Should you support these people or should you restrict them? How can you make the most out of people building their personal brands in your organization?

The Organizational Dilemma

If you are a leader of an organization and your people are going after building their personal brands – you face a dilemma about whether to support or restrict these initiatives. There is no simple answer and this chapter will provide a few perspectives to help you make that decision.

The Bedrock: Alignment

The core issue boils down to that of Alignment.

If you take the analogy of the bus (organization), you expect all the passengers (employees) to be in the bus going to the same destination. When a few passengers start trying to go to a different destination, they not only confuse themselves but also confuse others in the bus.

You can think about supporting personal branding initiatives if people who are building their personal brands are :

  • Doing so in alignment of the vision and mission of your organization AND
  • Doing so without seriously misusing the resources provided by the organization AND
  • Doing so without impacting their roles and responsibilities within the organization AND
  • Are ensuring that the organizational brand is getting enhanced in the process

If personal brands are in alignment with the organizational brands, the organization will benefit big time.

When I was the CEO of CIGNEX, we had a few employees who wrote books on topics related to Open Source. This not only enhanced their personal brands but also helped the CIGNEX brand shine in the world of Open Source.

A Double-Edged Sword

To support or not to support personal brands is a big question especially for young and growing organizations. These organizations will need every single employee to put every single ounce of whatever they have to the growth of the organization.

If the leaders have a scarcity mentality, they will wish that all the energy and investments going after building personal brands should be directed towards growing the organizational brand.

On the other hand, employees who are embarking on personal branding initiatives happen to be VERY smart and ambitious. These are the same people that can get things done. They will even walk the extra mile for the organization as they walk the extra mile for themselves.

It is a double-edged sword for the organization. On one side, the organization needs the support of extremely talented employees and on the other side, these are the same people who have a keen interest to develop their personal brand. If the organization supports personal branding initiatives for these people, it may take some investment of organizational resources for this effort. If the organization does not support these personal branding initiatives, there is a risk of losing these employees to organizations that WILL support them with their dreams.

The solution is to find a balance. One approach will be to make it clear that the organization will do its best to support personal branding initiatives that are in alignment with the organizational goals and objectives. The organization can also make it clear that while they are employed, employees should make the responsibilities of their role as their top priority at all times.

The Sabotage

Organizations are made up of people. Not all people want to take the journey of developing their personal brand. When the leaders and managers belong to this category of people who have chosen not to enhance their personal brand, there is a risk of them sabotaging those who will take the journey. This happens especially when their own positions are under a threat because someone below them is now a superstar in the making, within and outside the organization.

Leadership at all levels needs to be strong. Leaders should know that there is a possibility that some people will outgrow them and move ahead.

John Maxwell, noted leadership guru says that “leaders have to be lid-lifters” meaning they have to remove the barriers to the growth of people that they are leading. Instead, most people will put a lid at the level that leaders are – meaning nobody who is being led can rise above the level of the leader.

Quick checkpoint for your own organization – “Do your leaders lift the lids or do they enforce the lids?”

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