Being a visible leader is all about carefully crafting your image - without being dishonest. Image is about how you look but it’s also about who you are. And that takes in everything from the causes you care about to emphasising the qualities that have made you successful. Here’s how the professionals do it.
Have a trademark look
"Think of sunglasses and you think of Elton John," says entrepreneur Thomas Cridland, founder of the Tom Cridland clothing brand which, since he launched it two years ago aged 23, has dressed everyone from Leonardo de Caprio to Miley Cyrus.
"He’s never without them and they’re the perfect complement to his larger than life image. Elton John once said he loved rock n' roll because anyone ordinary can become a rock n' roll star if they set their mind to it. He’s certainly achieved that and it shouldn't be underestimated how much his use of clothing has played its part in this."
And if you don’t think you can pull off the sparkly sunglasses with Elton’s panache, remember that a trademark look doesn’t have to be over-the-top. Think Mark Zuckerberg’s jeans and grey T-shirt.
Have a cause (and make sure you’re serious about it)
Giving back is a big part of doing business in the 21st century, as consumers become increasingly concerned with environmental impact. Supporting a cause publically can help enhance your image - but it has to come from a place of genuine concern, rather than cynicism. "Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York and internet entrepreneur, made his first donation of $5 to his college alumni association immediately after graduation," says Ted Nash, CEO and co-founder of Tapdaq. "Whilst $5 was all he could afford in 1964, Bloomberg's charitable contributions have grown significantly in conjunction with his success as a businessman. He continues to support meaningful causes in public health, arts and culture, the environment, education and government innovation. He shows how business cannot only be impactful in your chosen sector but also supportive in others too."
Find your story - and tell it
Once upon a time there was a removal man who dreamed of being a comedian. He started to post comedy clips on Vine and YouTube - and in the space of two years, built a massive internet following. That’s the true story of Stuart Barter, aka 'Stuggy'. "With no prior experience in the entertainment business, he’s become a leader of modern comedy," says Ed East, founder of marketing agency Billion Dollar Boy. "The authentic connection he has developed with his audience provides him with an average of one million views on any content he shares, tens of thousands of comments, likes and shares."
Build a strong and transparent media profile
If your customers know who you are, as well as what your business is, they’ll trust you more - and you’ll raise the profile of your brand even more. It’s not always easy to put yourself out there, says Jacqueline Dewey, Managing Director, Callcredit Consumer Markets.
"That’s particularly true if you’re a woman like myself, challenging norms in an industry that has in the past been fixed in its ways. But it is achievable, as demonstrated by businesswoman and co-founder of lastminute.com, Baroness Martha Lane Fox.
"She was young, female and attempting to disrupt an established industry. She proved throughout her career that speaking up while staying true to your values is extremely powerful. Her genuine passion for digital inclusion has helped her to transition from digital entrepreneur - in the early days of the internet when people were highly sceptical about buying online - to a key voice and mentor to others in the industry."
Emphasise what you are, not what you think people want you to be
Think about the qualities you already have and use them. "Look at Innocent Drinks co-founder Richard Reed," says Matthew Davies, senior coach at Power the Change. "He’d left his job, had no experience in the drinks sector and was seen as too young to be taken seriously. He didn’t give up and used his natural persistence to build a successful brand. The ability to adjust one's sail when the wind changes but stay focused on the destination is something I have seen in every great leader I have worked with or read about. Persistence is sometimes painful but always a key to success - there’s a great saying that a river doesn’t cut through a rock because of its strength but because of its persistence."