Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who Has the Best Leadership Brand of All?

The benefits include: quicker job promotion, enhanced business relationships, greater credibility, and a deeper sense that you are living and working in line with who you really are. Sounds pretty important, right?

The reality is very few individuals actually take the time to carve out their brands because they are so busy with the day-to-day duties of their jobs. Also, a lot of people just don’t know how to create and deliver a brand.

Fair enough, not everyone was a marketing major. But for those who do take the time to strategically step back and look at what your professional brand really is and what you want it to be, you will be professionally ahead of the pack.

Before I started my Life and Leadership Development firm, Potential Unlimited, I worked for a variety of corporations, including General Motors and UPS. I was hired to help them build and turnaround their brands. I really enjoyed this work and had a lot of success in this area. I decided to translate this expertise into my business by now working with individuals as part of my coaching to help them develop and build their brands to set them up for success.


Know your values

Your brand at work will reflect who you really are. Take some time now and think about what is most important to you. If you say family is top priority and then you are never home because you work 24/7, then either you are really unhappy as you are living out of line with your values or else there may be other values that trump family. This doesn’t make you a bad person if family is not number one, but just take the time to know what is most important to you. This is where you should put your greatest focus.

Own your brand

This means that you need to stay true to yourself. So if part of your brand is to be a strong, fearless leader, then when you are in the meeting with your superiors and the meeting starts to take a turn away from what you feel is best, you need to speak up.

Be consistent

One of the greatest ways to build a strong brand is to continue to execute in a way that is consistent with the brand you’ve laid out for yourself. Consider, every time you walk into a Tim Horton’s coffee shop, you can order from the same menu. You see the same uniforms on the staff and you are greeted in the same manner. Human beings generally like to know what to expect. The more times a customer frequents Tim Horton’s and sees the same type of environment and service, that continues to reinforce that brand in his/her head.

So if part of your brand is to be a caring leader and a co-worker or employee hears you talk about someone else in a negative way, you start to lose your credibility. At some point, that individual may wonder if you may be talking behind their back too, so the brand you are building by your actions is not a positive one.

Communicate your brand

You may think you have a brand, but if you are not telling others about who you are and your areas of expertise, than nobody knows your brand. Consider what would have happened to Pepsi if it didn’t embark on advertising and PR campaigns. Now, I am not suggesting you run a billboard campaign featuring a picture of yourself right outside the doors of your company. What I am talking about here is owning who you are and clearly communicating the expertise you bring to the job. The way you communicate this message will help relay your brand. For instance, if you pride yourself on being a straight shooter, than when talking to your boss about an issue, saying something like, “I see your point, but I’m going to tell you exactly what I think. I believe we need to…” and then share the benefits of doing things in the way you suggest.

Use metrics

I am a big fan of putting metrics around the work I do. I want to see I am driving value for my clients and it is important for them to see how far they have come. In the case of brand building, I use a 360 tool when coaching my clients that is specifically formulated to measure a variety of dimensions including an executive’s current brand. This tool measures what the executive sees as his/her current brand and what others around them perceive to be the brand.

I find this dose of reality about gaps that exist around perceived and real brand presence to be eye opening and transformational for leaders. At this point, we can then work on how to bridge the gaps to deliver the brand they desire to portray and to live.

Blogger Carey-Ann Oestreicher, MBA, BA (Hons.), Chief Engagement Officer, Potential Unlimited

Recipient of a Top 40 Under Forty Business Achievement award, Carey-Ann Oestreicher, owner of the career development firm for women, Potential Unlimited (www.potentialunlimited.ca), holds a MBA and has worked in a variety of senior positions including vice-president level. Her focus is her family and helping women in business find true peace and happiness in their lives while achieving new heights in their careers.

Carey-Ann has been featured in a variety of media because of the success she has experienced with her holistic approach to developing women leaders and entrepreneurs. Her appearances include: CTV’s Canada AM, TSN, CBC News, Global Television, City TV News, The Globe and Mail, Canadian Business magazine, The Toronto Star and The Canadian Press.

Lessons I’ve learned along the way

When I reflect on the lessons that have helped me most, what comes to mind are the colleagues and mentors who have generously shared their experiences (and mistakes). Having benefitted from shared wisdom and lessons learned, I take as many opportunities as possible to return the favour. In a mentoring conversation where I’m sharing personal experiences and guidance, there are three common pieces of advice that I consistently offer:

  1. Lead with your strengths

Taking the time to understand what you’re good at may seem like an easy task, but getting it right requires reflection and self-awareness. Once you identify your strengths, seek out situations and roles where you can shine. While building up your weaker qualities can be beneficial (including when it’s a skill you need to be successful in your role) you’ll make greater progress focusing on your strengths.

  1. Differentiate yourself

Identifying your strengths is an important first step towards differentiating yourself. Whether it’s your professional experience, education or activities outside of the office, determine how you can stand out from the rest—particularly when you work in an area where everyone has a similar background. As someone who can bring a unique perspective to the table, you’ll automatically be a step ahead in terms of establishing presence and authority.

  1. Remember that it’s okay to say “I don’t know”

Most of us fall into the trap of thinking that real leaders have all of the answers, but the reality is that nobody has all of the answers all of the time. More important is knowing how to navigate the situation and find the answers. By asking questions and engaging others, you’ll establish yourself as someone who’s open to new ideas, and there’s a good chance you’ll learn something as well. True leadership is trusting yourself enough to say “I don’t know” and asking for help.

While these words of advice have stuck with me throughout my career, they’re only a subset of the lessons I’ve learned along the way—lessons that have been made possible in large part by having great colleagues and mentors. Engaging and sharing as a mentee and mentor will always be a priority for me, and I hope it will be for you too, regardless of where you are in your life or career.


Nadine Ahn, Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer of Wholesale Finance, RBC

Nadine has global accountability for financial governance, control, valuations and performance management for Capital Markets and Investor & Treasury Services, and is a member of the Operating Committees for both businesses. Nadine is also a member of the CFO Operating Committee.

Nadine joined RBC 17 years ago and has held various senior roles in Corporate Treasury and Finance, including Vice-President & Controller, Global Head of Financial Control, Capital Markets Finance.

She is a CPA and holds a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Toronto.