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Suzanne Bates on Building Your Leadership Brand

September 25, 2011

Suzanne Bates will be at this year’s Women in Leadership Institute delivering a Quick Talk session on Executive Presence. Here, Suzanne shares the importance of building your personal brand….

Most of us fully appreciate the importance of a brand to a luxury hotel chain like the Ritz Carlton, an online service like Zappos Shoes, or a new product like the iPad.  But what does it mean to have a personal brand?  And why, as a women in business, do you need a brand, anyway?

In essence, a brand is a thought (accompanied by a feeling) that lives in the mind of another person.  Your brand is the shorthand way people think about you.  In marketing, there’s a saying -“a brand is more than a word; it’s the beginning of a conversation.”  The question you have to ask, as a hard-working woman in business, is what’s the conversation people are having about you?

If you work for a company, when the executives of your organization go looking for the leaders of tomorrow, they are seeking not just women who are highly competent, but those who are influential.  They will promote exceptional leaders who have brought people together and inspired them to achieve a difficult objective or rally around a common goal.

If you are a CEO, President, or entrepreneur, when your clients, employees, vendors, board, stakeholders or investors think about you, they want to see not only a competent business person, but an authentic leader with a vision and a strong set of values.  They want to hear and see how you are incorporating the values into the company to drive forward with your plan and achieve your objectives.

Most women I know need to invest more in building their brands.  During a decade as the CEO of an executive coaching firm that has clients in world-class companies, I’ve learned that women just don’t do enough to make themselves known.  The best way to build your brand is to tell your story, or rather, the stories of your career that have shaped and defined you.  I don’t mean by bragging about your accomplishments, quite the contrary.  Share the lessons that are relevant to others.  Don’t be the hero, be the inspiration. This is the way to communicate your values; balance confidence with humility and focus on lessons learned.

Your brand, or reputation, is at the most fundamental level, answers the question “Who are you?”

Think back on your experiences; the good, bad and ugly.  Those events represent a treasure chest of character-building moments that taught you important lessons.  When people know your story they come to trust you and believe in you; this opens the door to opportunities you never imagined.  While your brand may seem like an intangible asset, the effect of communicating who you are is enormous.

As Abraham Lincoln once said, “Character is like a tree and a reputation like a shadow.  The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”  Your brand, or character, is what is authentic about you. Your skill in communicating casts the shadow that becomes your reputation.

The first step to discovering your brand is to embrace the idea that you have a brand, that it has power, and that you can harness it to accelerate your career.  Women, especially, must take care do this.  Going on this journey is an act of self-love and an investment in your dreams.

About the Author:

Suzanne Bates is one of the most influential voices on communication and leadership today.  She is the best-selling author of Speak Like a CEO, which has been published in five languages and is in its 11th printing, as well as Motivate Like a CEO, and her new book, Discover Your CEO Brand.  As CEO of Bates Communications, she leads a nationally recognized consulting firm to help world-class leaders and organizations to communicate in a powerful, strategic way with their important audiences.  She is a former award winning television journalist.  You can follow her on and on Twitter at CEOCoachBates.  Bates Communications can be found on the web at

Dark haired woman watches from audience of conference event

Women in Leadership Institute

NOV. 13–16, 2023 | Orlando, Florida, or Virtual
A 4-day immersive learning experience designed to equip women leaders with actionable strategies to overcome the hurdles women often face in the workplace.

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