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Why Branding and Reputation Are Essential for Fearless Leaders Leaders need to create authentic values and stick to them to reach consumers who prioritize branding and reputation more than ever.

By Brendan P. Keegan

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Marketers put a lot of emphasis on the fact that people aren't just prioritizing specific goods or services: They're prioritizing real values, visions and philosophies. Reputation has become king, and branding is more important than ever if you want to be heard over all the noise in your market. But, why are branding and reputation also so important for you in your business leadership?

Related: 10 Steps to Building an Impeccable Professional Reputation

Branding and reputation are a two-way affair

What's the basic purpose of a positive brand or reputation? What does it get people to do?

The answer is simple — it proves to people that they can depend on you. A good reputation lays a foundation that shows you're trustworthy and people don't have to be afraid when you're at the helm. Subsequently, people want to keep interacting with you, and they're willing to tell others about you. For instance, research from Edelman shows that people are five times more likely to advocate for a high-trust brand and three times as likely to share their personal information with that brand.

Another study from the Calhoun Institutional Archive of the Naval Postgraduate School revealed that when people trust their leaders, they perceive the organizational culture as being open. When that happens, engagement goes up. In practice, that means people end up communicating with you much more openly. They tell you what they want or need and what they think you should do in certain situations. They participate in projects and events. They're happy. Alexander Kjerulf, Chief Happiness Officer for Woohoo Inc., argues that happy people do better at working with others, fix problems more efficiently, and make better decisions.

This goes both ways, too. A study from two doctors at Harvard Medical School and the University of California found that people who associate themselves with happy people have a happier demeanor and a better sense of wellbeing. So, if you have a happy team and are around them regularly, you have a better shot at joy yourself.

There is also a clear link between emotional stability and leadership effectiveness — people who completed an emotional intelligence program showed an 11% increase in core leadership competencies. When you work toward a solid brand and reputation, you become a calming influence that makes everyone feel more comfortable just because you're there with them. And, through the calming influence of those who follow and are comforted by you, you stay calm, too. It's a beautiful cycle.

How to build a brand and reputation you can be proud of

Building a great brand and reputation with the goal of being a truly fearless leader takes three key ingredients — authenticity, passion, and tangibility.

Authenticity means you embrace your true self. All your personality quirks, strengths and weaknesses, and what you're striving to be are all laid out on the table for everyone to see. You're not trying to make yourself into someone you're not. Sometimes, this means you have to become more self-aware and figure out who you really are first. This personal, inner work gives you the ability to represent yourself to others in a way that's truthful.

Passion ties to authenticity. Your passions represent who you are and what you like. Most of the time, people naturally gravitate toward their passions. They put great effort into tasks and projects that involve what they're passionate about, and they keep going even through bumps in the road because they find those passions to be so exciting and energizing. So, by incorporating your passions into your brand, you'll be able to stay motivated, give it your best, and grow your brand faster.

There can't be a disconnect between what you say you're passionate about and what you actually do. When people think of you, they're going to think of tangible things they know about you — the things they can see you do. If you say you love animals, for example, then the fact that you volunteer at a pet shelter gives others real evidence that you're showing them the most authentic version of yourself. Ask yourself, "What am I doing to prove I told the truth about who I am?" Remember that life is one big place to showcase your talent in these kinds of tangible ways and constantly reassure others that you're being authentic with consistent, positive, and productive behaviors.

Related: Your Reputation on the Line: Employer Branding

Building a solid brand and reputation is a choice you can make today

Growing your brand and reputation is a long journey, but rest easy. You are in control over how people see you. Make the choice to work authentically, passionately and tangibly, and you'll gain the fearless attitude that helps every great leader achieve great branding and reputation.

Brendan P. Keegan

Chairman, CEO and President of Merchants Fleet

Brendan P. Keegan serves as Chairman, CEO and President at Merchants Fleet and was recently named the World’s Most Innovative CEO by CEO World Awards. Keegan is also the silver winner of Executive of the Year by Best in Biz Awards and a Stevie Awards bronze winner by American Business Awards.

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