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Why I Fell in Love with Personal Branding

growth impact thoughtleadership Nov 02, 2021
An open letter from Marina Byezhanova, co-founder of Brand of a Leader.

 


 

Last week, I publicly shared my big goal: to become the global thought leader in personal banding. It was intimidating to share such a lofty goal openly – but I know that clarity of vision is one of the main keys to success.

I co-founded a personal branding agency called Brand of a Leader in 2020. In short time, we have already uncovered and clarified the personal brands of over 50 inspiring entrepreneurs and business leaders who all have one thing in common: a thirst for legacy. All these individuals have seen success: some have successfully exited their businesses through majority shareholder merger or acquisition; others have achieved the peak of an executive career, climbing to the height of the corporate world. Regardless of type or level of success achieved, all have one thing in common: they are ready for more. More impact, more opportunity to inspire, and more ways of making the world and our communities a better place.

This is what personal branding is all about to me.

Building (or rather uncovering) a personal brand is not the ultimate goal. Your brand – and my brand equally so – is merely a tool that allows us to make an impact at scale. In some ways, uncovering your brand it is simply the beginning of the journey. The goal is living a life of meaning and impact. Personal branding is one of the tools to help us achieve that.

Let me first tell you how my journey began. I started building a personal brand before I even realized that I was doing so. My original motivation – which has remained consistent – was to stand up, stand out, and to be radically authentic.

That desire came from an upbringing of censorship and sameness.

You see, I was born in the Soviet Union and, because my Dad is Jewish, my parents decided to give me my mother’s last name – to make sure less people realized that I was Jewish. I did not understand it at the time, but much of my identity – especially in my earlier years – was designed to fit into a larger “narrative” – one which I hadn’t crafted myself. Realizing that my identity was not authentically my own began to cut deep.

During high school in post-Soviet Ukraine, I learned to self-censor: I could get better grades by aligning my words with the opinions and beliefs of my teachers. I shied away from ruffling any feathers and attracting unnecessary attention. I was blending in, disappearing into the background. In some ways, it served me – but in others, it failed me. I was unable to live out my most authentic self – perhaps the feeling is a familiar one to you.

In the Soviet Union, the ability to stand out was further supressed by the lack of color. I mean it quite literally: colors like pinks, fuchsias, purples, neons, you name it – they simply did not exist in my life. We wore black and brown uniforms with badges of pictures of Lenin and we were expected to blend into one grey mass. And we did. I did.

When I moved to Canada, I had a burning desire to change all that. I wanted to wear ridiculously-colored clothing (there are pictures of me proudly wearing a yellow skirt, pink shirt, and a silver hat with crystals). I wanted to speak up at every opportunity just because I…could. I wanted to feel radically authentic.

But then I realized that my authenticity needed to be defined. Who I truly was and what I wanted to channel through my brand (which simply meant the packaging of who I genuinely already was) needed to be worked out. I took a hard, deep and honest look inside to understand what “authenticity” actually meant to me. I worked with therapists to become comfortable with the idea of standing up and standing out.

Slowly, I began put myself “out there”: I spoke up in more meetings at our company; I began making noise on social media; I leaned into “networking” and introduced myself to tons of people, building connections; and I even began to seek out opportunities to speak on stage or on camera. I faced criticism at times – but I faced so much more support from others who saw the authenticity in my mission.

With time, I began to notice others had felt moved by my voice and my commitment to stand up, stand out, and to be radically authentic. They felt it. Some were so inspired that they wanted to inspire others, too.

I dream of inspiring you (yes, you) of finding your voice and scaling its reach.

At Brand of a Leader, we developed our own unique methodology that provides a very clear process and blueprint towards uncovering a personal brand. We are preparing to conduct further studies and perform more research to create more concrete and actionable tools for all of you looking for clarity, meaning and authenticity because you, too, want to make an impact.

A personal brand gives agency, sense of ownership, and power – power to be heard, to influence others, and to “be the change you want to see in the world.”

This is what personal branding means to me and why I am working relentlessly towards becoming the global thought leader in this space. Are you ready to scale the reach of your voice, too?

 


 

Marina Byezhanova is the co-founder of Brand of a Leader. She has given talks across the globe & has been featured in media outlets including Forbes, Inc., Success Magazine, Yahoo!, the Financial Post & more.

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