February 15, 2017 Articles

Exploring Your Leadership Brand

A summary of the main takeaways from the inaugural event for litigators of color.

By Sahmra A. Stevenson

On the morning of Wednesday, November 16, 2016, at the Professional Success Summit a warm and anticipatory buzz was in the air. Conference attendees once again packed themselves into the first-floor ballroom at the Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead, in Atlanta, Georgia, for a third and final day of presentations. Conference schedule materials listed 9 a.m. as slotted for a panel presentation on “The Intangibles: Self-Investment, Branding and Coaching.”

Branding and brand management have become increasingly recognized value creators for any individual, or business, seeking to grow and succeed in the legal field. This makes them a career and business management priority. Aware of this phenomenon, the audience sat at attention ready to absorb what was coming next. As ABA President Linda Klein wrapped up her remarks, the morning’s panelists, Janice P. Brown and George K. Schell, were introduced. What followed was a thoughtful and energetic presentation, exploring the nature of brand, and insightfully intertwining it with an understanding of the concept of leadership responsibility.

Personal Branding and Self-Investment
“Personal branding is how you are talked about when you are not in the room,” Ms. Brown said, as she presented some of the bottom-line truths about personal accountability when it comes to building and maintaining your professional mark, reputation, and credibility. Digging even deeper, Ms. Brown intimated some additional branding principles reminding participants that “you must be consistent to be effective” and that “once people see you being inauthentic, you potentially lose their trust,” adding a new layer to the concept of branding as a conscious daily practice.

Through consistent and deliberate practice, we play an active role in ensuring that we are presenting an authentic self in our daily interactions. To do this, we must begin with intention and vision. “The most critical component of anything we do is how we feel about ourselves,” Janice stated. She went on to provide a list of three important parts of maintaining a clear vision: (1) dispelling negative and limiting beliefs, (2) replacing them with positive affirmations, and (3) changing your beliefs to meet your vision.

When the goal is changing another’s already formed perception of you or your brand, your success will be largely determined by your willingness to make the first move, be authentic, and remain consistent. A perfectly timed PowerPoint slide drove Ms. Brown’s point home. It read, “If your solution to the problem is that somebody else needs to change, then you’re doomed.”

Leadership of Self
The concept of personal branding as a responsibility to exercise awareness of how others view us, our business, and ultimately our work-product, flowed seamlessly with Mr. George Schell’s discussion on leadership of self.

“We all have an obligation to our organizations to conduct ourselves as leaders every day,” said Schell. A statement that rang true to all listeners whether government, private, large firm or small. “Employees have to live up to the leaders they are watching represent them.”

Schell explored the importance of flexibility, growth, and modeling accountable behavior by encouraging attendees to start taking a self-awareness approach to managing failure.

Schell instructed the audience to “look in the mirror.” He encouraged listeners to begin with looking at their own actions (and inactions) while making note of what they bring to the table, both positive and negative. Schell explained that admitting our mistakes, and communicating failure, while keeping a keen eye and open mind out for the “good” in a situation is empowering. It gives us the ability to turn any tragedy in to a triumphant victory, known to some as a “teachable moment.”

“It’s all about the humans,” he joked with the crowd on several occasions throughout the morning presentation. He left the audience with three points to consider for modeling accountable behavior: (1) empower and inspire by demonstrating a willingness to be (i) adaptable (ii) accountable and (iii) real; (2) listen more and talk less; and (3) have fun.

Sahmra A. Stevenson is the founding partner of S.A. Stevenson Law, LLC, in Greenbelt, Rockville, and Baltimore, Maryland.


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Sahmra A. Stevenson – February 15, 2017