Written by Suzanne Bates
What is your brand? It’s a thought and feeling that leap to mind when people think about you. A brand is an intangible asset; however, the impact is very real. Smart, successful leaders put their brands to work and demonstrate that they are strategic partners. So how can you do this, too?
The first step is to understand your brand. To do that you need to look at the story of your life and career for clues to the values you hold. These events have shaped you and made you the leader you are today. Your brand, which in essence is your character, is already well formed. But you must analyze it yourself before you can communicate it to others.
You’ve seen this dynamic at work in your company – those who give voice to their values, who share the principles that define them, and connect with hearts and minds, motivating and inspiring others. People want to work for them; in fact they want to be like them. They attract and energize people and there is no reason you can’t be that kind of leader as well.
Believe in your brand
In order to communicate your brand, you must embrace the idea that you have a brand and that it has real power. Begin by recognizing that your reputation is one of your most valuable assets. Treat it like gold. Share it with others. That will drive tangible value into the organization and help to position you as a strategic partner to the organization.
How do leaders who believe in their brands shape the values of their companies? One powerful example was Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, one of the most influential businesswomen of her time. She believed that if you could sell, you could succeed, and that any woman could earn her way to the top. How did she come by this belief? She was passed over for promotions in sales – though she was a top sales person, year after year. She quit, wrote a book, and realized it was the blueprint for her iconic, multi-billion dollar company.
Learn the skill of storytelling
Look at pivotal events in your life, and examine what lessons they taught you. Your personal stories are a veritable treasure chest – inside life lessons can be found that have shaped your values and defined you. When you share these stories with audiences, a human connection develops, which helps people see who you really are.
How have your life experiences shaped your brand values? That’s the question. These character-shaping experiences are the foundation of your brand.
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Combine your brand with your organizations
The interesting feature of a leader’s brand is that while it stands alone, it is also part of something larger. You have your own separate brand, which also is commingled with the organization’s reputation. So it stands to reason that you need to understand your own brand, and also appreciate the interplay between your brand and your company’s brand, so you can harness the two to work in concert.
The organization’s values are not always what you see posted on the walls or in the employee manuals. It is important to truly analyze and understand what traits and values drive the success of the enterprise. If they are out of sync with your own values you need to understand where the gaps or disconnects are. Being in sync with the company values is essential to earning a seat at the table.
Be highly visible in your company and industry
Consider the following actions to build your brand:
- Have mentors and coaches help you get savvy about all aspects of the business - develop a strategic point of view.
- Volunteer to give presentations to your executive team and board and talk about big ideas.
- Write thought leading articles for magazines – visibility outside your company. Explore a new twist on an old idea.
- Volunteer for company initiatives – interact with business leaders. Help them solve problems.
- Speak up in meetings – let people see your brilliance – and develop an executive presence that commands the room.
It’s been said that a brand name is more than a word – it is the beginning of a conversation. What’s the conversation that people are having about you? I guarantee if you are sharing compelling, interesting stories, people will remember them – and then they remember you.
Suzanne Bates is author of the new book Discover Your CEO Brand: Secrets to Embracing and Maximizing Your Unique Brand as a Leader, just out from McGraw-Hill. Founding CEO of Bates Communications, a firm that transforms leaders into powerful communicators who get results, Suzanne is also author of www.thepowerspeakerblog.com and two other books from McGraw-Hill: Speak Like a CEO and Motivate Like a CEO. Visit Suzanne's website: www.bates-communications.com