Everything communicates. Everything you say and do and don’t say and don’t do; and whom you say or do it to and when. Your personal leadership is going to get positioned in others’ minds whether or not you plan for that to happen. For those that want to take control of their own leadership positioning, it starts with writing a positioning statement.

Leadership Positioning Components

    • Target: Those whom will be impacted by your leadership.
    • Frame of reference: The type of leader you choose to be.
    • Benefit: How you will impact your target.
    • Reason to believe: Why your target should follow you.

    Target: Those whom will be impacted by your leadership

    The best targets are both wide and deep.

    Think broadly to include those you’ll communicate with directly, those with whom they will communicate and all the influencers along the way. This could include peers, family and friends, associations, analysts, media, activists, competitors, collaborators, board members, shadow board members, shareholders, banks, regulators and government officials among others.

    At the same time, dig deeply to understand your target’s expectations, hopes and fears. Think about their context, what really matters to them, the occasions on which you can impact them and where you might connect.


    Frame of reference: The type of leader you choose to be.

    The world needs three types of leaders: artistic, scientific and interpersonal. Be clear on which you choose to be.

    • Scientific leaders work on different problems, care about solutions and better thinking to connect with people’s minds and impact knowledge.
    • Artistic leaders work in different media, care about perceptions and new approaches to connect with people’s souls and impact their feelings.
    • Interpersonal leaders work in different contexts, care about the cause and rallying the team to connect with their hearts and impact action.

    Many leaders blend different aspects of these three at different times. That often works well. For the purpose of this exercise, pick one of the three as your focus.


    Benefit: How you will impact your target.

    This is the pivot point of the whole exercise. Put yourself in the shoes of your target and answer the question “What does this mean for me?”

    • If you’re a scientific leader, this will most likely be about the types of solutions you help others get to.
    • If you’re an artistic leader, look at the type of feelings you want your work to engender.
    • If you’re an interpersonal leader, look at the purpose you’re inspiring and enabling others to realize.

    Reason to believe: Why your target should follow you.

    Your followers won’t believe what you say – unless it matches what you do and who you are. That’s why it’s generally stronger to craft your reason to believe in terms of be – do –say. Start by clarifying your own underlying beliefs. Then determine what actions you’re going to take to communicate those beliefs. Finally, spell out the main message points that will make your target believe you.


    From positioning to message

    Don’t confuse leadership positioning with message. Positioning is strategy. Message is implementation. One of my personal heroes is Charley Shimanski. Charley walked away from an investment banking career because he was personally driven to serve the underserved. I had the privilege of working with him at the Red Cross and at Rebuilding Together, helping the underserved stay in homes that needed repair.

    I previously wrote about how Charley’s messaging inspires others at the heart of the mission. Charley does as good a job as anyone at moving from positioning to message. He fundamental believes in his mission. That comes through loud and clear. He lives it every day. And then he finds way to make those following him feel proud about what they’re doing. It’s wonderful to watch.


    Intuition versus being deliberate

    This is yet one more example of the difference between intuitive and deliberate thinking. You can probably do a fine job trusting your intuition to craft your leadership message. Your intuition pulls together your experience and wisdom in a Nano-second. But if you want to increase your odds of getting your message right, take the time to think through your positioning and then build your messaging off that.