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How to Define Your Brand as a Leader Self-knowledge is key to your success as a leader. Defining a clear vision will enable your team to get behind you and help your company thrive.

By Dorie Clark Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


When Carey Rome heard about the findings in Gallup's 2015 leadership study, he was disturbed. A full 70 percent of leaders, it said, just don't have what it takes to manage others well. (One in 10, it reported, have "the sought-after talent combination that characterizes great managers," and another two in 10 could get there with help and coaching.) Was there a way to overcome this colossal waste of talent and teach potential leaders how to succeed? After all, in his own life as an entrepreneur, he'd witnessed the power of change.

"In the past, I achieved the results I wanted by standing on the throats of the people that needed to deliver," recalls Rome, now a leadership consultant and author of the e-book The Three Percent Leader. "Yes, I was successful, but at what cost?" Today, he's reformed his ways and is committed to helping others avoid similar mistakes. He believes the secret to good leadership begins with defining the vision behind your actions.

Related: 7 Leadership Qualities of a True Champion

"Failure to establish the type of leader you are is the most common mistake," he says. "This is often skipped, because it feels too soft, especially for hard driving, results-oriented [entrepreneurs]. What I have found is that if you don't know who you are as a leader, it's extremely difficult to create your unique vision. If you can't clearly articulate your vision, you can't attract smart people that share your vision."

Slowing down to think, he says, is the key to faster results down the line. For many entrepreneurs, he says, "Doing seems better, faster, and more efficient [in terms of] progress. It's not. There are no shortcuts."

The first step, he says, is defining your core as a leader – in other words, "how you'd like to be described. For example: Deliberate, trustworthy and fair." As I describe in my book Reinventing You, however, the trick is that you can't simply tell your three words to other people and assume they'll automatically assimilate them into their perceptions of you. Instead, you can only establish your brand as a leader by living out those values. "Once you've stated these as your core," says Rome, "Your goal is to live and breathe these three words every day in every interaction. Think of it as a challenge: Can I get someone to define me as a leader using these three words through my actions alone? It's tougher than it sounds."

Related: 4 Things You Didn't Know About Leading a Business

Next, says Rome, you need to identify your leadership "non-negotiables." Values are often a bit vague (who doesn't value responsiveness or inclusivity?). But non-negotiables break this down into a bright line of "what you will not tolerate and will serve as grounds for termination." Examples might include putting other employees down or missing agreed-upon deadlines. Share these with your team, and let them know that while these are sacrosanct, everything else can be worked through.

Establishing your vision and non-negotiables will enable you to have a clearer sense of your priorities, says Rome. That's essential in a world where so much of what we do is driven by urgent requests. Almost all professionals – especially entrepreneurs – have a certain amount of fires to put out in their jobs. "However," he says, "the goal is to become proactive and less reactive…Living in crisis is not normal. Living in crisis can create a very strange twist on productivity. Busy is not necessarily productive."

Self-knowledge is key to your success as a leader. Defining a clear vision will enable your team to get behind you and help your company thrive.

Related: How Famed Entrepreneur Seth Godin Built His Tribe

Dorie Clark

Speaker, Marketing Strategist, Professor

Dorie Clark is a marketing strategist and speaker who teaches at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. She is the author of Reinventing You. 

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