Yup, this one is going on The List.
“Known: The Handbook for Building and Unleashing Your Personal Brand in the Digital Age” by Mark W. Schaefer (Shaefer Marketing Solutions, 2017, ASIN B01N7ZE2R4) is a book about leadership that isn’t about leadership. The premise of the book is simple — there are four rules or ingredients that help you build a strong personal brand on the internet. They are:
Find your place.
find your space
Find your fuel.
Create an actionable audience.
Through the four steps and numerous stories, Schaefer lays out a path from an idea or passion to a marketable contribution to the world. In doing so, he touches primarily on vision and secondarily on relationships, with some learning thrown in at the end. He deals with these topics at the strategic level – that is, the 35,000 foot view. This isn’t a tactical book by any means, but that doesn’t take away from its value. It’s a quick read, and offers more information about turning the ideas into action than most books in the self-help business genre. The exercises aren’t revolutionary, but they’re solid explorations of the strategic-level of self-development for vision and relationships.
The surprising thing about this book is that Schaefer captures many of the nuances of both vision and relationships. Unlike many books in this genre, he understands that vision is an interplay between the world and your brain, and that too much ego will lead you to an idea that doesn’t turn into a workable product in the competitive market. Your vision, the change you want to see in the world – isn’t created in your head, but is rather a synthesis of your ideas and what exists in the real world. To get there, Schaefer reminds us, you have to explore and challenge yourself with others’ ideas and then create a plan for what the change will be. Schaefer calls this “the intersection” of place and space. His description of “sustainable interests” captures the mutually-beneficial nature of relationships quite nicely, avoiding the simplified “people want things” version that so many other authors propose.
Don’t worry if you aren’t a solo entrepreneur starting an online business. The ideas Schaefer describes are easily applicable to a corporate, government, or non-profit job, no matter what level you are at. Mr. Schaefer’s ideas will help you work through your vision within the context of your current position and your career aspirations. By applying your understanding of the environment within your organization and the larger context around the organization to your personal situation, I think you will find value in the entrepreneurial approach of “Known”.
And if you’re wondering how “Known” is a leadership book that isn’t about leadership, the challenge here is envisioning a personal brand, and then building relationships to make that brand known. Though some aspects of “Known” are technical skills, the majority of the book concerns sharing your vision of yourself with other people – a leadership situation if I’ve ever heard one. This is a reminder that leadership applies across a wide range of situations and challenges, and that applying the definition of leadership to a situation such as launching a personal brand illustrates the truth (and usefulness) of understanding the world in this way.
“Known” is appropriate as a foundational introduction to the concepts of vision and relationships for someone getting started in leadership, or as a strong reminder of the big-picture of those two cores for someone who is in the thick of it.