If you ask someone to describe a person with a compelling leadership brand, they will often struggle initially to explain exactly why that person is so effective. Maybe this is because everything that we do, say, and embody at work creates the brand for which we become known. For some, this is just too heady a realization to bear… People in this camp may feel powerless about their reputation – thinking, “Others are going to make their minds up about me. I can’t control their views.”
In one of my first jobs out of school, at a tender 25 years old, I found myself at a firm with no career ladder and a particularly demoralizing, tyrannical boss. Every morning that I walked from my house to that job, I was wretchedly miserable. My one glimmer of happiness was a smart, funny peer—let’s call her Sarah—who became my instant friend. We were in the same unhappy boat, at a similar level in the organization, and I seized on our lunch breaks as prime opportunities to vent my gloom and misfortune with someone who I knew would understand.
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