Leading through the economic tsunami without drowning: Become a distinct leadership brand or extinct generic

By accentuating their natural skills and strengths, leaders can stand out and put themselves on the fast track for senior-level leadership roles that will enable them to achieve all of their hopes, goals, and dreams.

The alternative is to become a “generic” leader, a basic manager who does not stand out in any way. In today’s fast-paced and ultracompetitive economy, generic leaders are rapidly on their way to becoming extinct — “average” is the new unemployed and good is the new average. By following the principles of Fresh PASSION, a methodology I created of developing a personal brand that leads to exponential personal, professional, and economic success, you can learn how to become great, and therefore put yourself in a position to obtain a senior leadership position that will deliver maximum personal, professional, and economic success.

Companies, organizations, and customers all expect more from their everyday employees, and particularly from their leaders. They want an experience that is more value-adding than the competition and fulfills a particular need, want, or desire. 

So if they see you as a “generic” leader, you’re in trouble. You’ve seen generic brands, the “no-name” products that usually sit low on the supermarket shelves. For the most part they’re not that different from the costlier name brands that are placed directly at eye level and are often made by the very same companies! But generic products typically sit on the shelves for a long period of time, only picked up by someone looking for a short-term bargain. People expect to and do pay less for generic!

Guess what? People can be generic, too. In today’s competitive world, you’re either a distinct and competitive brand or an extinct generic. In order to prosper as a senior leader you must become a distinct and competitive personal brand.  

Before taking a look at how I used my Fresh PASSION methodology to help develop new leaders at a Fortune 5 company, let’s briefly take a look at the steps of Fresh PASSION:

Fresh …

“Fresh” means doing something every day to enhance your brand so that it stays fresh — keeping your skills sharpened, packaging yourself well. You don’t want to be caught with pay phone skills for a smartphone world.

Preparing …

“Preparing yourself” means continuing your education and simply maintaining an active intellectual interest and knowledge capital in your career and life. Leaders must have a constant supply of knowledge and skills to impart to their followers.

Aspiring …

“Aspiring to reach your goals” means having particular ambitions and then setting out to achieve your goals — aim at nothing and you’re guaranteed to hit it! If you have no concrete goals, you have no direction and will take your followers nowhere.

Staying laser-focused …

“Staying laser-focused” means intently focusing on each area of Fresh PASSION, otherwise you’ll miss the mark and not deliver your brand. When you are focused you will know when proper changes are needed.

Selling …

“Selling your value” means understanding your return on investment, having confidence in your fullest potential, and constantly searching for new opportunities that will help you meet or even exceed that potential. For a leader, it is essential that your followers “purchase” your brand and follow you because they want to, not just because they have to.

Invigorating …

“Invigorating yourself” means having the tenacity and discipline to go the distance and secure your personal and professional success. Your followers feed off your vigor and channel it back into their own jobs and lives.

Omitting …

“Omitting the negative” means learning from the inevitable negative experiences you will encounter without dwelling on them. There will always be those who think they deserve to lead more than you do. If you listen to them too closely, they will pull you down from the “branded” shelf to the “generic” shelf very quickly.

Nailing …

And last but surely not least, “nailing the brand” means successfully packaging your substance up and putting a bow on it so that you become a fresh brand that can successfully compete and WIN internally and externally, which will enable you to achieve exponential personal, professional, and economic success.

Fresh PASSION leadership in action

When I first arrived at the Fortune 5 company, I conducted a “freshness assessment” by spending 60 days listening to the employees to see where they were and where they were heading. I also listened to the company’s customers to see what they thought of the service they were receiving.

I was thus able to truly understand the people I was asked to help, their competencies, their personal brands (or lack thereof), and start working to maximize the brands they had already built and also find a way to enhance them. I needed to help employees realize their personal brand was what both the company and the customer would ultimately invest in.



This required getting employees to discover the passion they had for their personal brands. They then had to take charge of their brands and take a leadership approach to their careers. In terms of helping employees discover their true aspirations, I prepared them to be “fit to fight.” They needed to determine what they aspired to be, both inside and beyond the company. Employees then needed to understand their unique value proposition and communicate it both to customers and their superiors — “proof points” that would help them get to the next levels of their leadership careers.

I also made sure I constantly reminded employees not to get distracted by the competition or any other outside influences and to instead stay laser-focused on their aspirations. I also had them develop winning pitches that sold themselves and their brand value before they focused on developing pitches to sell products to customers.

To help employees stay invigorated, I reminded them that staying invigorated even during the worst economic periods was critical to developing the kind of personal brand image that customers would be willing to invest in regardless of uncontrollable outside influences such as fluctuating oil prices. Furthermore, I worked with employees to omit any negative feelings and instead focus on positive activities like interacting with customers and growing their personal networks.

Finally, individual brands were not part of the culture at the Fortune 5 company, but after seeing the results of employees developing and then nailing their personal brands to enhance their leadership capabilities and standing, many of the company leaders become advocates for the process and asked me to share the Fresh PASSION process with the broader organization. 

Michael D. Brown is the author of Fresh PASSION: Get a Brand or Die a Generic. For more information, go to www.myfreshbrand.com.