People follow charismatic leaders for a time. But they devote themselves over time to the cause of a BRAVE leader who inspires and enables them in the pursuit of that cause. Focusing on the cause is one of the three core tenets of our book, “First-Time Leader.” (Request an executive summary).

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Yet this raises fundamental questions about whether the cause should be part of a leader’s personal brand or whether the leader should subordinate their brand to their cause. The answer is that it depends on your MAP—or, your message, amplifiers and perseverance.


Message – Frame your message by thinking through the platform for change, vision and call to action. Then distill those components down to one driving message and three communication points.

Amplifiers – Select the people that will help you drive your message and the media you leverage. There are always others influencing the people you want to influence. Discover these second-level stakeholders you want to influence that may include their bosses, peers, subordinates, mentors, advisers and the like. Find and deploy like-thinking allies in your quest.

Perseverance – Manage your communication plan around a set of topics that you propose and guide, and reiterate it to your amplifiers. Shape it as best you can, but know that in most cases some element of your communication network will always be taking on a direction of its own, including ones you didn’t anticipate or possibly may not like.

The Cause

While there should be an overlap of parts of your personal brand and your cause, you need to decide which is more important. Do you care more about the cause, positioning yourself as a supporter of the cause? Or, do you care more about your personal brand, leveraging the cause to help reinforce what you want to communicate about yourself?

You can’t craft a message until you make this choice.


BRAVE Personal Branding

The BRAVE framework works as well. Think outside in from Environment through Values to Attitude, Relationships, and Behaviors:

  • Environment/Where play: Target, frame of reference: context, ecosystem, unwritten rules.
  • Values/What matters most and why: Your cause, the heart of your purpose, benefit.
  • Attitude/How to win: Support and reason to believe you.
  • Relationships/How connect: Message and communication points to connect emotionally.
  • Behaviors/What impact: Implementation with amplifiers and perseverance.


Personal Branding for Artists

Xyion’s Adrian Miller is an expert on the personal branding of artists or “talent.” As head of Artists and Repertoire at Warner Brothers, he was responsible for talent scouting and overseeing the artistic development of recording artists and songwriters. At Warner, Miller said, it “was all about the corporation building its brand and not the artists.” Now, at Xyion, his mission is to make sure to “never let anyone get left behind the digital divide.

Miller is a self-proclaimed “fan of the underdog.” He fundamentally believes that creative work is 80 percent of what makes up the value of an artist. This may seem obvious: of course an artist’s cause is the creative output. But Miller believes artists must also pay attention to their personal brand.

Miller gives artists “short cuts to the tools” they need to build their own brand, he says. He enables them. He teaches them how to do it. He helps them grow their businesses, paying attention to what he sees as three fundamentals:

  1. Content: How artists can best use and showcase their work
  2. Infrastructure: How to pay attention to the business side of their work
  3. Website: Keep a blog or website to regular promote their work and their brand


Implications for you

Miller’s approach to personal branding follows the MAP framework and provides a blueprint for leaders to:

  1. Get your message right. Think like the artist you are. Get your content or cause clear.
  2. Leverage the appropriate amplifiers. These could be other people, media, technology and tools. Make sure you have the infrastructure in place.
  3. Persevere. This is not a one-time event. Launching an album or finding a job may be short-term ventures. Building your brand over time requires ongoing investment over time.