A Business Leader’s Guide to Personal Branding

Remember when men were from Mars and women were from Venus? When we all knew our roles? When there were boundaries we never crossed? When everything made sense?

Neither can I. I’ve been cooking meals, washing dishes, and doing laundry as far back as I can remember.

For the record, I bought that book for my wife when it came out. She blew up and the book went in the garbage. I guess whoever wrote that book never met my wife.

Cultural upheaval is nothing new. Happens every generation or so. Somebody writes a book that starts a movement. Things change. Confusion ensues. Things settle down. Rinse and repeat.

It’s the same in the business world. Ever since personal branding guru Dan Schawbel wrote Me 2.0 – lending credibility to an entire generation of narcissists – corporate executives have generally observed the rising tide of personal drama and entitlement from a distance.

But even the most disciplined and skeptical business leader can only hold his breath underwater for so long. Sooner or later, we all have to give in, gasp for air, look around and try to figure out whether the lunacy infecting our kids and our employees involves us or not.

As a former senior executive who, once upon a time, actually did the branding thing for a living, I think I’m at least somewhat qualified to shed a little light on the subject.

Let’s start at the beginning. You. Who are you? You’re an accomplished executive or business leader, of course. And just as a great product is its own best brand identity, let your accomplishments speak for themselves. Simple as that. No need to get creative. That’s for the other guy. You know, the one who aspires to be you someday.

Now let’s talk about getting your message out. When it comes to social media, less is more. You want to be a minimalist. I know that’s contrary to what everyone else is doing, but that’s the point. They’re all trying to be something they’re not. If you play that game, you’ll diminish your accomplishments. Your brand.

Besides, remember when you were a kid and you’d whine to your mom, “But Tommy doesn’t have to do his homework,” and your mom would reply, “If Tommy jumped off a bridge, should you?” Your mom was right. Nobody ever got anywhere by doing what everyone else is doing. But then, you probably already knew that.

If you like, go ahead and create a LinkedIn account, but only include the bare essentials of your executive career. A few companies, titles, years, that’s it. No more, no less. Don’t join any groups; they’re worthless. And don’t bother becoming an Influencer or blogging, for that matter. Everyone’s an opinion leader, these days. You’ll just get lost in the noise.

Speaking of no ROI, let’s talk Twitter. Three words: don’t do it. The powerfully addictive tug to Tweet and gain followers will draw you in, suck the life out of you, and leave you gasping for your next fix. Read my lips: there is no benefit.

Twitter is the opiate of celebrities, socialites, stalkers, the media, and the masses of unemployed that call themselves social media marketers, entrepreneurs, and CEOs. It’s no place for a successful executive like you.

What about Facebook? If you connect with friends and family that way, keep it that way. Private. You’re going to get tons of friend requests. Ignore them, unless they really are friends.

Yes, I know what the PR folks say. You’re supposed to be a thought leader. You’re supposed to post, blog, connect, update, Tweet. Well, you know how to handle those PR people, don’t you? That’s what I thought.

Let’s see, have I forgotten anything? What about Google Plus? Come on; be serious. Nobody uses Google Plus.

Now comes the fun part. Your look. Everyone at Apple wears jeans. Mark Zuckerberg and Satya Nadella wear hoodies. Apparently, anything goes, unless you’re on Wall Street. Black is the new black. Fashions have tapered a bit, but please, no skinny pants. Have a little self-respect.

Bald is in, except I think if you’re a woman. Same goes for facial hair. Richard Branson, Larry Ellison, and Reed Hastings all have beards. Finally, it’s okay to quit shaving, unless it’s your head. It’s about time.

Look, I know I tend toward the cynical, but before you write this off as contrarian satire, let me just say for the record: I mean every word of it. You didn’t get to be where you are by giving in to popular fads, so don’t start now … especially not now.

The truth is, business is still about business. It isn’t about you or anyone else. Nobody cares about your personal brand. Neither should you.

Related: Why CEOs Don’t Use Social Media.