We don’t need another hero

Image is the true blockbuster element of your K-12 leadership brand
By: | August 2, 2019
gettyimages.com: monkeybusinessimages

Trish Rubin is a marketing instructor at Baruch College in New York and is the author of BrandED: Tell Your Story, Build Relationships, and Empower Learning.

This summer, Marvel superheroes raked in billions of dollars at the box office for Disney. Heroes are a big business. I keep hearing Tina Turner belt out the song “We Don’t Need Another Hero” from the Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome movie.

During the 2019-20 school year, let the supermen and superwomen in K-12 leadership rule each district multiplex. You don’t need to be the Flash to warm and improve your community connection—just a strong image.

Do school leaders need to be superheroes?

I didn’t spend my summer watching blockbusters. I did professional development for school leaders. I know we don’t need heroes in education. Every school system needs a strong personal educator (the brand) who showcases the good they do for kids (their image).

Many leaders hesitate to promote themselves—even though they wear themselves out trying to be superheroes. You don’t need to leap tall buildings in a single bound to lead your school with power. Your school needs a visible, connected and relatable leader.  Tell your story.

Learn how to market yourself

I don’t want to take anything away from the legacy of superheroes. They possess talents that promote leading. Check out Captain America, Wonder Woman or The Flash comic books. Each one’s main character has a unique brand value that creates a loyal connection.

Superheroes are servants and so are school leaders. A simple servant-leader formula of success begins with an image. Attach that image to a promise to deliver value—something more realistic than saving the planet, please—and complete your brand by garnering belief through results.

We mere mortals of education can have deep impacts in the hearts of our communities. Start with one small step: Work on your image.

You don’t need to leap tall buildings to lead your school. You need to be visible, connected and relatable.

Start crafting your leadership image

Superintendents and school leaders can probably identify with Iron Man’s lament: “I need a day when there aren’t 20 crises to deal with, but I don’t see that coming soon.”

In battling daily crises, a response might be to grab your superhero cape. A school community benefits from a proactive leader’s authentic, consistent “human brand”—a leader who creates relationships and mitigates crises.

Consider these image-building questions:

  • Who am I?
  • What words define me as a person?
  • What words define me as a district professional?
  • What is my motto that illustrates my value?
  • What quote guides my life?
  • What’s a line from a poem or a song lyric that shows who I am?
  • What is one power word that I can use to start promoting myself every day?

Show your answers to trusted friends, family members and colleagues. Ask for feedback and additional words. With this wealth of information, tell your story in real time in person and online.

School leaders are teachers at heart. Teach your community about yourself using these responses. A brand image can help reduce any miscommunication that leads to a crisis. The people who believe in you (and your brand image) will rally behind you.

Take on your brand image

Confidently step into your image. Your community wants to know you. Digital- and social media-savvy audiences expect transparency. Today’s leadership troubles often come from a lack of transparency. Old-school superheroes existed under the skin of real people. Don’t hide yourself in the digital age. You are not building an alter ego. You are building leadership connectivity through your image.

Purposefully target what your community values and spend time building a recognizable brand image in person and online to match those values. Your effort will lead to an authentic promise to your community.
Next, delve deeper to test your image. Follow these guidelines to ensure that your image resonates:

  • Share a short brand statement—not an elevator speech, but your story and why you are a K-12 leader. In this “attention economy,” people lack focus. Leadership messages must be short yet impactful. “I am here to serve you” is a clear image, for example. “Trust is a must, no matter what” could be any leader’s proud image mantra.
  • Use the words and phrases you gathered to build your image as part of your email signature, on your business card, and on Twitter and Instagram. Also use them in conversation as you start meetings and as you move through the community.
  • Don’t ignore the power of LinkedIn. The content you build around your personal brand is powerful on this supercharged connecting platform. Tell your story on LinkedIn, connect with other professionals and networks, and watch the results.

Consistently use your brand image to guide your decisions and combat any misperception. As Supergirl counseled: “The more we fight each other, the more we distract each other from solving real problems.” Your brand image is a model that benefits community harmony.

Iron Man’s Tony Stark recharged his breastplate to keep his superhero power. Your authentic image is self-renewing. Sharing your crafted leadership image this school year will prepare you to unify your community while continually amplifying your leadership brand success. Not bad for a mere mortal.

Trish Rubin is a marketing instructor at Baruch College in New York and is the author of BrandED: Tell Your Story, Build Relationships, and Empower Learning.