Build your brand – and start soon!

Senior boys learned about the importance of developing their personal brand from an internationally respected leadership expert.

Roger Delves, Dean of Qualifications and Professor of Leadership Practice at Ashridge Executive Education, Berkhamsted, gave a lecture during a Senior School assembly.

After being introduced by Year 13 Sanchit Agrawal, Mr Delves urged boys to start thinking about and developing their personal branding early in their careers. Since all QE pupils are bright, intelligence is not what will set them apart at School, nor later at work. Those who do not have a strong brand leave themselves open to others stereotyping or caricaturing them, he warned.

""Going to university is a “watershed moment,” he said; it represents an opportunity to re-do your personal branding, to drop certain behaviours, to pick up new ones and even to escape the nickname that has dogged you.

But he cautioned that a brand has to be credible – “You have to be able to live up to it.” Its essence lies in one’s personal values and it was thus important that boys should not hide what they believed in, since people can respond emotionally to that. In fact, while brands need both rational and emotional appeal, it is the latter which is more important, since it makes the greater impression.

""Mr Delves, who is the father of a boy in the Lower School, currently leads the Personal Impact module on both the Ashridge and Hult Executive MBA programmes. (The two business schools merged operationally in 2015.) Voted MBA Professor of the Year by both MBA and EMBA students of Hult’s London campus in 2012, he has taught for Hult in London, New York, San Francisco and Shanghai. He previously worked as a UK Board Director for international advertising agency DMB&B. His special interests are understanding the roles of authenticity, emotional intelligence, ethics and integrity in leadership and in decision-making.

He explained to the Year 11-13 boys gathered in the Shearly Hall the difference between management and leadership. Management involves coping with complexity to produce the “narrowest possible gap between what the organisation should be doing and what it is actually doing”, and improving the culture that exists. Leadership concerns coping with change and bringing about change or setting the future direction, as well as creating new cultures and inspiring people to follow you.

""Both leaders and managers need a personal brand, but it will be different, and “as a leader you would need to think about what would make others want to follow you”, he said.

In a question-and-answer session, Mr Delves was asked about using social media as part of personal branding. He urged great caution, since a mistake could cause enormous damage. Questioned on university interviews, he advised boys to be themselves, but in a way that respected their surroundings: they should dress reasonably smartly and always show mutual respect, while still demonstrating their personal brand in their answers, making sure the interviewers heard about their qualities and the things they had achieved. And when asked what differentiates a good leader from a great one, he said that anyone could be a good leader, but that to be great you had to have something in you that makes you love to lead: “it has to be in your blood”.