Personal Brand: Pride or (Prejudice)?
Personal Brand: Pride or (Prejudice)?
I was curious to attend a book launch session. When an opportunity came from NHRD, Bangalore, I grabbed it with both hands. While curiosity played a part, the fact that the launch was of the much-acclaimed book “Catalyze,” by the noted HR practitioner Krish Shankar, reinforced my interest. I bought the book and speed-read it before the date of the formal launch.
Treatment of “Pride” in HR practice
A topic in the book that caught my attention was the presentation of human emotion: “Pride”. Pride is associated with something sinful, and literature of yore ties it with shame, guilt, humiliation, and embarrassment. So, the treatment of “pride” in a book on HR intrigued me. The practical relevance of Pride and its further division into Hubristic Pride and Authentic Pride was found in this book.
Delving a bit deeper, supported by the references mentioned in the book, I found out that it is a well-researched area in modern psychology and hence its relevance as an HR topic is understandable.
I came across the podcast of Prof. Jessica Tracy, the original researcher, (“Take Pride: Why the Deadly Sin Holds the Secret to Human Success”), and got a deeper understanding of the universality of pride amongst cultures and within humanity.
The perceived need for a “Personal Brand”
As is a common happenstance, in conferences and sessions like these, one meets “familiar strangers.” It so happened at this conference, too. What better than looking at an engagement to catch up and get re-acquainted? Our discussions veered around how we came to know of this event, our common interests, and what has been keeping us busy.
My “familiar stranger” is a seasoned professional with more than 30 years in the industry. As we discussed, he shared his recent experience of exploring a senior management position in a leading company involved in Physical Computing. [Physical Computing is an area that involves building interactive computing systems for sense and response to stimuli.] He was justifiably proud to have led the development of a patent-pending, award-winning platform.
He made inquiries about available opportunities in the industry and, in the process, reached out to a couple of his senior ex-colleagues for advice and recommendations. He was a bit taken aback by the response he received ,to say the least. The message conveyed to him was that in today’s connected world one needed to have a “Personal Brand” in the industry, to merit consideration, politely implying that he may not have so. Therefore, he had a feeble chance for consideration for the said opportunity. That was an in-the-face smack of sorts for someone who loved his profession and had a justified sense of pride in what he had achieved professionally.
As I was driving back from the launch, the slow and lumbering traffic made me dial back to the reference point of Hubristic Pride and Authentic Pride and contemplate and relate it to the chat I had with my acquaintance.
This got me to reflect. People must become brands to make themselves worthy of consideration for a job, more so at senior levels. This is a corollary to what we observe when marketers try to bring in the persona of the brand they sell!
Today we are in a world of extreme connectedness. This ushers visibility and racks up attention. It is debatable if the attention generated is enduring or fleeting. In the last few years, we have seen the emergence of influencers and thought leaders and their numbers have exponentially grown, enabled by the new age world hinged on attention and visibility.
So, what would a Personal Brand mean? Being an influencer like Elon Musk with his massive Twitter following or a thought leader like Bill Gates with his enviable LinkedIn following.
Or does one have to take a middle path with visibility in the circles that matter, the niches they own? So how does one go about it?
I leaned on my understanding gathered about pride and how researchers like Tracy have drawn a line between Hubristic Pride and Authentic Pride.
Personal Brand interweaved in the world of binaries of Pride
Hubristic Pride mostly relates to arrogance, dominance, and presenting superiority at times based on association (to a company, network, or group) while Authentic Pride relates to genuine self-esteem and overall confidence resulting from a toilsome achievement.
While Hubristic Pride may have an inflated sense of self-worth, it may not be evidence-based. Authentic Pride, on the other hand, comes through skills earned, and expertise gained doing the hard yards. Here the association is with the self, it gives a feeling of having been earned, being real, and is necessarily evidence-based.
Do we need a blend of both to build a Personal Brand? Does it have to be built leveraging the noisy, yet the necessary world of social media platforms, or does it need to stand on the stilts of robust public relations and networking machinery?
Then, how does a person who is in the “psychological safety” of a corporation feel the need to build a Personal Brand, without it being viewed as blatant self-promotion or as a conflict of interest?
Again, how does a solo entrepreneur cultivate a personal brand with the frugal resources at her command? Is networking an option for her?
The leverage gained through networking could be superficial. It could be forced and flaky and deliberately cultivated and mostly seen as self-serving and without genuine human connection.
So, how do we interweave the perceived need of carving out a Personal Brand for our professional growth?
Stepping away from the enforced world of binaries, it appears that, we may have to have a fine blend and balance between Hubristic Pride and Authentic Pride.
Inherent self-worth and self-belief would provide prestige and get coalesced into Authentic Pride …and a modicum of hubris and self-grandeur will provide the needed dominance through Hubristic Pride, however, prejudiced it may be.
Are we evolving away in this journey?
Is this the recipe for cultivating a Personal Brand in the attention-seeking economy?
Or are we evolving away from the lessons of the Bhagwat Gita — “…perform the right action with the right attitude without being attached to results?”
Is the currency of the attention economy supplanting our traditional roots and mores of the yore?