To succeed in business, it’s often been said that you should “dress for the job you want, not the one you have.”
This well-known line comes from the movie “Picture Perfect,” starring Jennifer Aniston.
While the advice may sound superficial, there are some relevant messages here for aspiring aviation leaders.
If there’s one take away from this blog, it’s that the image you project is vitally important to how you’re perceived.
Business aviation is a rapidly changing industry sector. Gone are the days of the flight department leader being perceived as “one of the folks at the airport.”
Enter now the perception of the flight department leader as a businessperson.
As such, you must be just as comfortable walking across the hangar floor as you are walking through the executive suite at corporate.
Safely executing your aviation mission always has been,and always will be, of paramount importance. But as a leader in business aviation today, you’ve got to be seen as someone capable of much more than that.
You’ve got to be perceived as a leader at the corporate level as well.
This means “fitting in” not merely based on your appearance, but more importantly, by your “personal brand.”
A personal brand is defined as: developing a unique professional identity and coherent message that sets you apart from others either in your company or in your industry.
So how do you develop one?
How to Create and Project your Personal Brand
As a current or aspiring business aviation leader, here are five sure-fire ways to create and project your personal brand.
1. Dress Well
As indicated previously, developing your personal brand is about more than your appearance and the clothes you wear. But that’s certainly part of it.
Dressing like a business leader does not mean Armani suits or Louis Vuitton bags. It means that you adapt to the prevailing appearance of the leaders in your corporate office.
If their attire is business casual, great. If it’s jeans, go for it. But do it with style.Don’t wear the same pair of Lee or Levi jeans that you wore when you changed the oil in your car the night before.
Invest in attire that fits in, but is a bit on the dressier side. Present an image with which your corporate leaders are comfortable.
Dressing for the job you want is important because it speaks volumes about your aspirations.
Or, to use an aviation analogy, it’s an indicator of your professional “flight plan” and your intended career “heading.”
Tip – Be very clear about your aspirations and signal them every way you can, even visually.
2. Define your Personal Brand
My personal brand has always been “people, planning and process,” which I learned from many years in the “school of hard knocks.”
It’s a concept best visualized by a three-legged stool,whereby each of the three legs represents one of the people, planning and process components.
- I believe in the achievement of business results through the “zealous development of people.”
- I believe in the need fora carefully crafted business plan that defines the future and aligns the organization around a common goal.
- I advocate for a strong foundation of process to ensure that the business unit (e.g., a flight department) is operating as effectively and efficiently as possible.
I attach equal significance to each leg of the stool.
What happens to a three-legged stool when one of the legs is removed, or made shorter than the others? Yep. It falls over.
Right or wrong, that’s my personal brand and I’ve made it my consistent message wherever I’ve gone in my career. Thankfully, it has served me well.
What’s your personal brand message?
Tip – Clearly define your personal brand so it reflects who you are in a genuine and authentic way.
3. Communicate your Personal Brand
Once you’ve defined your personal brand, don’t be bashful about it. Let everyone know.
In many of the positions I’ve held, process was a missing component. The sheer lack of it was a barrier to the organization increasing its next level of performance.
In such cases, I made process a part of my everyday communication. I’d talk about process. I’d write about process. I’d think about process.
I lived and breathed process.
So much that some people labeled me “Mr. Process.” Others would dive under their desks when they saw me coming; they knew the questions I was about to ask.
But that was OK with me. My personal brand and my key beliefs were clear to everyone!
Tip – Once you’ve defined your personal brand, apply the “first rule of communication.” That is, just when you think you’ve communicated all that you can about it . . . start over.
4. Become a “Citizen of the World”
Becoming a “citizen of the world” means stepping out of your comfort zone. It also means that you become more informed, especially in regard to the core business of your parent company.
Do your homework and learn the industry, research the competition and speak the language of your corporate executives.
Learn the strategies of the corporation and become informed on where new business opportunities are unfolding. At some point, it’ll be your job to get the executives there, so there’s no time like the present to start.
Based on what you learn about the emerging markets for your parent company, adjust your flight department strategies. For instance,revise your fleet plan accordingly.
Also, determine how you can make the lives of your authorized users easier. Get clear on where the key leverage points of value exist, and provide them.
Tip – Move past your aviation comfort zone. Clearly demonstrate that your personal brand extends beyond aviation.
5. Show Up
Woody Allen once said, “80 percent of life is in showing up.”In my mind, truer words were never spoken.
You cannot “show up” as a business leader in aviation by hiding out at the airport.
The old model of “out of sight out of mind” and “stay off the radar screen” went out sometime during the 1980s.
Any aviation leader who still subscribes to that philosophy is in big trouble. You’ve got to get out and you’ve got to be seen.
How is that done?
Make it a point to spend a significant time at corporate, each and every week. Get on the calendars of your key stakeholders on a regular basis.
They have a job to do, so don’t be an irritant. But find appropriate ways to check in and see how things are going. Determine how the flight department can better support them and maximize their executive capacity.
Then, get to work. Figure out how to transition those corporate strategies into an action plan for aviation.
Tip – Learn how to translate ideas into action. Your personal brand is of little value if it doesn’t produce value for your stakeholders.
The ability to distinguish yourself and advance your career gets more difficult as time goes on. If you aspire to become a business aviation leader (or maybe more), take the time to establish and communicate your personal brand.
Those who do will be the ones who win.
What’s your personal brand and how have you established it? Let us know in the comments section below.