Branding yourself as a leader

Leaders are defined by how they connect and relate to people

“Do you know anyone who has decided to do business in a particular city based upon the city slogan or logo?” That was the question asked this spring by the leader of a consulting group hired by the Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce to help it define our region’s brand.

Predictably, no one answered “yes.” As the facilitator shared later, relying on a logo to solely promote a brand won’t work. You must start with deep assessment to determine a message and brand that will, ultimately, rally communities, visitors and businesses.

This thought process led me to think about my role as CEO of the Akron Global Business Accelerator and president of The Bit Factory. In these roles, I am continually assessing myself:

  • Do I set a good example of leadership?
  • Do I represent my organization in an effective manner?
  • Am I cognizant of others’ needs and act to address those needs?

Many of our client entrepreneurs would admit that leadership is one of the areas in which they still need to grow. There are four key areas I recommend to entrepreneurs as I help them develop their leadership capabilities.

Be authentic and genuine

A strategy and implementation plan is important. However, the messages and actions of leaders need to be authentic and genuine. Your character is revealed in all your relationships. Stay cognizant of your behavior. Ask for and be fully open to feedback from staff, peers, superiors, family and friends. They will likely be willing to provide it if they believe you will accept it.

Stretch beyond your comfort zone

I was inspired by the recent TEDx Akron speakers who offered their perspectives on making a difference in our communities. They promoted getting outside one’s comfort zone, living in the moment and practicing bravery. The more successful leaders look to expand their horizons.

Practice empathy

Many of the TEDx speakers experienced tragedies that were transformational. As leaders, we shouldn’t have to wait for a transformational event to force us to care for and support our people. You can be a strong leader and care for your team at the same time.

Support givers and encourage staff to ask for help

Research has shown that the highest-performing staff members tend to be givers, or they can be the lowest performing if they are taken advantage of. As a leader, you can make your organization more effective and higher performing by creating an environment recognizing the performance of the givers who make it easier for everyone to succeed. Encouraging teams to seek help when needed will improve productivity and strengthen relationships in your team.

A strong corporate or nonprofit brand is based upon more than just a logo or tagline. It is what is under the surface — strategy, message and communication style — that makes it most effective. It’s the same with a strong leadership brand. It’s more than just being well-versed in your professional field. Having soft skills such as the ability to connect and relate to people on a variety of levels is what defines the best leaders.

Anthony Margida is CEO at Akron Global Business Accelerator