Real Leaders

How Inspiring is Your Story?


3 Steps to Creating your Personal Leadership Brand and Sharing it with the World. 

No matter who you are, a clear personal leadership brand (PLB) can make the difference between success and mediocrity. I’ve spent the past 25 years helping Fortune 500 companies build their brands with effective marketing, public relations and crisis management tools, yet it’s always surprising to hear how many people fail to successfully create and build their own personal brand by telling a moving story, which can have positive and long-lasting impact on their success. The reality is that with so much competing noise in the world, it’s easy for messages to be briefly skimmed, not understood, or worse, not seen at all. We’ve all heard the saying, “out-of-sight means out-of-mind” which is the opposite of brand building, so what can be done to create  your own PLB and stand out for success? We all know brand building pays because corporations spend billions of dollars to build them, but you can build your own story by utilizing three critical steps. Most people will want to skip these steps and go directly to broadcasting their message, which can actually do more harm than good. None of us want to be “pitched” or “sold,” or hear a person’s life story; rather, we want to connect with people and organizations whose values and vision inspire us!

The following three steps create the foundation that Real Leaders utilizes to build the Personal Leadership Brand of our clients.

1. Passion + Pain = Purpose

Some people are already clear about their passion in life, but many people still need help in gaining stronger clarity. If you’re passionate about cooking, for example, that fact alone is not enough. Who cares? What serious problem or pain of another can you address with your love of cooking? How about obesity, high blood pressure, homelessness, gang violence, even climate change, perhaps? When you combine your passion with a treatment for my problem, (or broader societal issue) you suddenly have a solid purpose with which you can attract others. This will ultimately create greater success and fulfillment.

A great example of this was when we began working with Kevin Maggiacomo, the CEO of SVN, a leading international commercial real estate brand, a few years ago. Kevin was equally passionate about supporting commercial real estate entrepreneurs and getting more women into the boardroom to achieve gender-balanced leadership. The pain he needed to confront became evident when he reflected on his great-grandmother’s  journey of overcoming the challenges of being an  Italian woman  immigrant in 1915. Many of these issues still relate to women and minorities today, more than 100-years later; unequal pay, lack of flexible work/life balance, glass ceiling, hostile work environment, good ol’ boys networks, etc.

During the discovery stage, Real Leaders helped Maggiacomo see that his company could offer a solution to many issues he felt so passionately about – that diversity will lead to innovation, and that the inequalities toward women are  wrong. In fact, Kevin came to the conclusion that, as CEO, he was actually in a position to do something about it, and at the same time, could seize the opportunity to build an even better organization. Once he became more clear on this vision, he quickly moved from an all-male board of directors to a gender-balanced board and executive team. Last year 40 percent of all new SVN offices were headed by women or minorities – in a U.S. industry that is more than 80 percent white and male. Maggiacomo describes the results:  “Our profit margins at an all-time high, our risk at an all-time low, and the diversity of our team is moving beyond homogeneous group-thinking to more innovative and insightful decision making.”

STEP 1: Action

· Ask yourself: What do I love to do? (Passion)

· What issues do I care most about?
Why? (Pain)

· How am I in a position to address this pain? (Purpose)

· Will people pay for this solution so I can grow it? (Prosper)

2. Vision. Inspiring story. Talk or Video

Create a moving story around your inspiring vision. Everyone is moved by a big vision, so don’t be shy, and describe the world you dream of creating one day. Create a moving, short (under 10 minutes) speech in the style of a TEDx Talk that positions you as a visionary leader, with a mission that people will want to connect with. You’ll also need an “elevator pitch” of this vision, a summary that is less than 30 seconds long, for people who will ask: “What do you do?” Even if you never end up giving a speech, you’ll find this approach helpful in articulating a clear vision and purpose that resonates with others.

STEP 2: Action

· Test your elevator pitch on a sixth grader. If they don’t understand it, simplify and clarify it.

· Go to for tips and videos on delivering a story worth sharing.

· Less is more. Tell an inspiring story in as few words as possible. Twenty minutes is too long. Ten minutes is better. Five minutes is even better.

3. Tell your story

Decide on the target audience or community that will be most inspired by your story and who will want to participate in your vision. Focus your message on your target audience through  social media, events, interviews (yes, when you get this right you become newsworthy) and speeches. Almost every topic of interest has a gathering hungry for guest speakers – some even pay! Since engaging this process, Kevin Maggiacomo has delivered a highly-rated TEDx Talk and become a sought-after speaker on the subject of innovation and inclusion. He has testified in front of state legislators and was awarded two industry accolades for his leadership in promoting  gender balance. He had virtually nothing in his Personal Leadership Brand portfolio three years ago, but now recognizes that developing this strategy has been a game changer for himself and his company.

STEP 3: Action

· Test your story with a small friendly audience first and ask for their input.

· Join social media communities in your target audience and participate.

· Revise your social media profiles to reflect your purpose.

The three  steps to building your Personal Leadership Brand do require an investment in time and reflection, but don’t require investing lots of money. Real Leaders is passionate about helping leaders build a purpose-driven strategy and successful brand, geared towards a new world economy that rewards social impact.

I hope you found these fundamental steps useful.


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