What It Takes for You to Lead the Industry. And How You Can Do It.
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” - John Adams
I teach a class on thought leadership, I always open by saying "Everyone in this room is a leader."
And I always get blank stares.
I continue by saying "Each one of you has a point of view. An important point of view that that the world needs to hear. When you share your ideas with the world, when you share your point of view, you'll change the world."
So, what exactly is a thought leader?
The simple answer is: Someone who is recognized as a leader in their field. Someone whose opinions are seen as meaningful, authoritative, and influential. Someone who drives your field forward.
The folks at Forrester Research offer this formula for thought leadership marketing:
Big Ideas and POVs on Customer's Issues + Sharing + Dialog + Exchange of Value = Trusted Source (THOUGHT LEADER)
You might notice that there are three more components to Forrester's formula:
Sharing, dialog and exchange of value.
For the purposes of this email, I'm going to focus on the communications platform and the sharing of ideas.
You have to communicate your ideas. If you don't, they might as well not exist.
Let me give you an example. Benjamin Franklin.
My favorites of the Founding Fathers. Why?
Because he went from unknown to one of the best-known thought leaders in early America. Plus, he was a scientist, inventor AND humorist.
He leveraged the communication platform of the day - the printing press. And he started by sneaking letters into his brother's newspaper under the pseudonym Silence Dogood. (Franklin used several pen names during the course of his long career.)
Over time, Franklin would become newspaper editor, publisher, printing press owner, postmaster and eventually diplomat. Franklin knew he had to have a platform where he could communicate his ideas.
Franklin used the printing press. Today, you might use email, audio or video.
Your leadership has to be shareable so it can influence multiple people. Today, that's much easier than during Franklin'’s time.
You might give a speech, send an email to your followers, customers, or prospects, share a video on YouTube. Regardless of the medium, you have to share your content, your ideas with a group of people.
If you're going to be a thought leader, and you're going to engage in thought leadership marketing, you need to communicate your ideas and you need to share them.
You might be thinking, "No way. I can't do that."
My answer is always, Look around. A few people stand out more than others. The only difference between you and them is they're putting themselves out there. They're sharing their ideas. And they're doing it regularly.
If you don't know where to start, remember you can:
Start your own blog or a company blog.
Guest post for an online magazine.
Create a PDF download and share it
Self-publish a book.
Start a podcast or YouTube channel
Everyone has ideas. Thought leaders share those ideas.
Does that mean when you start out your ideas will be brilliant and everyone will listen?
Probably not. A thought leaders' ideas are worthwhile, well-thought out, researched and well-articulated. And getting that right takes time.
Finally, let me add the following advice based my own experience.
You have to be yourself. You can't be someone you're not. You might think you need to pretend to be more than you are. But you don't. Admit your faults (I have many). Admit you're on a journey (it makes you more real). Be transparent about the things you don't know.
And have fun with it. Don't be afraid to get out there and let us know what you're thinking. Connect with your audience.
Ask me how long it took me to get started. And why I freak out a little every time I hit send. Or get onstage. Or hit RECORD.
So, where are you going to start?
I know you can do it. Please do.