Opinion: Life in the pandemic: Women leaders rock personal, professional brands
Pets. Kids. Sweatshirts. Home offices. Spotty internet connections. In just one month of social distancing and remote work, we’ve all been using videoconferencing and social media to stay connected and have seen new sides of co-workers, clients and business partners.
I’ve noticed that some women are doing a masterful job of solidifying their personal and professional brands as competent, multitasking leaders who roll with the punches. Way to go, rock stars of the pandemic – you’re perfectly imperfect, and I love that about you.
When we’re juggling a pot of coffee, Zoom connections and our families, it’s a wonder anyone can shower, much less prepare a work presentation. Yet, for many women, this is what we always do, but now with more complexity and no breaks. Watching some women navigate this situation on-screen and online, I have to say: I’m impressed. You’re adaptable, authentic, creative and seemingly fearless – or at least you’re moving forward.
It may seem odd to consider our personal and professional brands during such an unprecedented crisis, but we’re all so visible now. “If you have an online presence, it means you have a personal brand,” says Franziska Schaat in a LinkedIn article, “Personal Branding: Why Men Shine and Women Struggle.” “Anyone who views your social media profiles — be it a colleague, an employer or a potential business partner — will form an opinion about you based on what they see.”
Your brand includes not just social media, but video-calls, phone calls and emails. But don’t panic. We all get a partial pass right now. In this environment, no one is going to have it all together with bad home office lighting and kids and pets in the background. Even national newscasters seem to be doing their own hair and makeup and sitting at their kitchen tables — and we don’t care! We’re all human and we’re all juggling unique challenges right now.
What is admirable is that women are juggling our many roles with aplomb, showing up as prepared and professional as possible under trying circumstances. I’ve seen women absolutely master the background chaos in their household with charming humanity and humor while still nailing a presentation or conversation. I want to work with women like that.
In a recent Forbes article on women and branding, PR expert Susan Finco said, “Women need to strategically and intentionally develop their brands and decide who they are, what they stand for and where they are headed.” How do you even think about doing that in the midst of a pandemic and sheltering in place? One way to be strategic is to observe and emulate the women you admire right now. They don’t look perfect; they don’t have it all together, but they are making an effort to manage the uncertainty and our interactions with them inspire confidence.
Strayer writes, “Every interaction is an opportunity — whether it is in person, with the people we work, lead or support, or on our social media channels, through photos, video or 140 characters. We control that.”
We can’t control much right now, but to an extent we can control our interactions and how we show up. So kudos to the women who are showing up and doing their best — coffee cup, ponytail, masks, video-calls, three-ring circus and all. That is leadership.
Suzanna de Baca is president and group publisher of Business Publications Corp. During her 25-plus years of senior leadership experience in the finance, health care and media industries, she has been a passionate advocate for diversity, equity and inclusivity and the advancement of women. Contact her via email.