The impact of your associations on Personal branding should not be taken lightly by executives in today’s world. Your long-term success as a top CEO or senior executive will be heavily influenced by the strength and character of your personal brand. The perception of your personal brand by key constituencies such as your board of directors, investors, the media, key employees, customers, partners, and other key stakeholders will not only have an impact on your current role but future roles as well. In today’s post I’ll address what is becoming more and more of an issue with regard to your brand, which is the conclusion people draw about you based upon the company you keep…

The reality is that who you associate with on both a personal and professional basis matters…There is truth in the old axiom which states “perception is reality” and this is particularly accurate when the perception catches fire and becomes a widely held belief.

The good news is that if you make sound choices in your personal and professional relationships you will benefit from doing so. On the other hand, should your choices place you in the company of those who are not respected and largely thought of in ill fashion by others, your personal brand will likely suffer as a result.

The most recent and powerful example of guilt by association would be Barack Obama’s long-term relationships with questionable associations such as Bill Ayres, Rashid Khalidi, Tony Rezko, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and the list goes on…Regardless of how you feel about either one of the aforementioned individuals, there is no denying that Senator Obama’s personal brand has undergone tremendous scrutiny and has received a glut of negative attention as a result of this one single relationship.

Any one of us can reflect back over time and cite numerous references of occasions where we have observed someone in the company of an individual who we did not hold in high regard. Almost to the one, these situations caused us to question, even if ever so briefly, the character of the party of the first part. Over the years I have come to the conclusion that the mistake most people make in choosing their relationships is that they make their decisions based upon the wrong criteria. If you choose your acquaintances based on an alignment of values as opposed to the exploitation of an opportunity, or for social climbing purposes your personal brand will likely stand the test of time. If however, you make your relationship decisions based upon short-term gains you may unconsciously place your future at risk.

The lesson contained in today’s post is a simple one…you will be judged by the character of those you associate with, so my advice is this: jealously guard your personal sphere of influence, and limit your network to those individuals who will enhance your personal brand and not detract from it.