A lot of corporate leaders would like to sit on a board of directors. Since many have similar experiences and talents, one way to stand out from the rest is a cultivated personal brand. A strong personal brand enables you to stand out, build credibility and enhance trust with those who can help your board journey along. By making optimal impressions with every aspect of your brand, people are more likely to make introductions on your behalf, share opportunities and recommend you for board searches.
Your personal brand is made up of many components. It includes reputation, unique value and executive presence. It’s how you introduce yourself, interact during meetings and lead presentations. It’s also about the impression you leave when you aren’t in the room — your LinkedIn presence, headshot, resume, bio, style, communications habits and more!
When pursuing a board seat, it’s important to evaluate your impression as a prospective board director, not just a corporate leader. Concentrating too much on details of your operational experience can hinder opportunities by coming across as more executional and less strategic is not a desirable director quality, therefore impacting your ability to connect with those you want to attract and have in your corner.
Start with these critical branding opportunities to strengthen impressions as a board candidate:
Your headshot is often the first image people have of you. Whether on LinkedIn, company website or promotional emails, does your headshot exude confidence and look the part of a board director? Is it too casual or low resolution? Does it resemble you today or from 10 years ago? Ensure you have a recent, professional-looking headshot that a company would be proud to associate with their board.
People learn about you through your profile. After an email introduction, before a meeting, as a result of a search for a director with your background, make an optimal impression by having a complete, board-ready profile. Don't miss the opportunity to build credibility as a candidate and include information that will resonate with current/past directors, search consultants and other key contacts. If your profile is incomplete or outdated, some may view that as a sign of indifference or carelessness — attributes that do not make for good directors.
When assessing the board readiness of your profile, consider:
Consider how you appear and engage during one-on-one or group meetings. People notice poor eye contact and lack of focus (looking at a second screen or phone, checking email) as well as distracting backgrounds. Rude or disinterested behavior can raise concerns about whether or not someone should make an important introduction for you and how you would behave during board interviews and meetings.
How you introduce yourself sets the stage for what someone will think about you and how they’ll introduce you to others. “Tell me about yourself” is an opportunity to highlight board-relevant experience, not just relay professional history. You control the story, so craft a concise and compelling message that includes why you’re a viable board candidate.
A bio has broad application and visibility (company website, presentations, client pitches, etc.). In addition to summarizing your expertise, background and value you bring to your company, include your credibility as a prospective director and briefly mention experience most relevant to the boardroom, including nonprofit and advisory board seats. A corporate bio is different than a board bio, which focuses exclusively on positioning you as a potential director.
When you consistently present the best version of yourself and show how you'd be an asset to a board, others will want to be your champion. Strengthening your personal brand as a prospective director is critical because you will make better impressions, build credibility and enhance trust with those who can help your board journey.
A version of this article, "Building Your Brand For The Boardroom," originally appeared in Private Company Director - The Magazine for Private Company Governance on September 16, 2021.