To some, thought leadership may be an imaginary construct, but when you think about it (pun intended), it’s the backbone of all forward motion. At times, thought leadership is undervalued - not monetarily, but in its intrinsic importance.
To me, leadership needs to be energetically and powerfully projected. Your team is on the front lines, and the chances of their success without your leadership are slim to none.
What is a “thought leader” anyway?
Well, here’s a pretty good definition: “A thought leader is recognized by peers, customers and industry experts as someone who deeply understands the business they are in, the needs of their customers and the broader marketplace in which they operate.
They have distinctively original ideas, unique points of view and new insights.” What stands out to me as the most important is “deep understanding” and “distinctively original ideas, unique points of view and new insights.” That’s where the secret sauce lies.
2 out of 5 leaders will contact a company that has published a thought-leadership piece that resonated with them. This should come as no surprise. More and more people are looking for leadership, and great leadership is increasingly hard to find.
Ok, don’t take that too literally. We can definitely do without knowing a lot of what people are thinking. If you’re a true thought leader though, people want to hear from you - especially the thought leaders of the future. Whether you choose to express your forward thinking via social outlets, blogs or in person, your unique take and vision will inspire more leaders to take the reins in their own way.
The term “thought leadership” has been around for a while. It was coined in 1994 by Joel Kurtzman, editor-in-chief of Strategy & Business Magazine. The oldest person to have been labeled a thought leader was Ralph Waldo Emerson, and he dates back to 1878.
Bring value and then, bring value - simple as that. That’s what being a thought leader is all about. This idea is oftentimes lost but in fact, goes beyond marketing. It’s like going to a party and being introduced to a few people. If you promote yourself and all the awesomeness you have to offer, the chances of building a real, honest relationship with someone is out the window. People see through promotion and “salesmanship” even in social situations. DON’T SELL; GIVE VALUE.
Within your organization, thought leadership is more than often given to someone who can do exactly that - build relationships by giving. The saying “nice guys finish last” may have held some water decades ago, but today, kindness, empathy and most of all, truth, must come together if you want to achieve success with anything in life.
Empower your thought leader(s) to share his thoughts, even if it means giving away the “secret sauce.” Just because someone engages in watching a video of someone building a log cabin in the middle of the woods with no tools, doesn’t mean they’ll take that info and run with it.
In fact, it’s quite the opposite. 99% of the people who are drawn in to experiencing your leadership in any of its expressions, will, in time, see you as an expert in the field. People buy from who they know and trust. When they want to build that cabin, renovate their kitchen or deploy a digital marketing campaign, you’re the one they’ll call.
How do we go about executing our leadership within our scheduled content marketing and/or digital marketing campaigns? Here’s just a couple of tips that have been tried, tested and true.
This may sound redundant, but make sure that the content you share has real value. Don’t just put together a content schedule for your company just because “it’s the thing to do.” Shallow content will simply backfire. A badly written blog can not only cause people to unfollow you, but more importantly, will make them lose trust and respect in you and your business.
Industry rewards are much like all other industry rewards: nice to have on your shelf, but what tangible value do they bring to others? In my opinion, zero. I’d rather see real recommendations from people who've bought your products or used your services. Case and point; Google reviews. It has become second nature to go check out what others are saying about the burger at “the best burger restaurant in town.” When was the last time you bought something on Amazon without checking those verified buyers’ reviews? It’s all about the testimonials, endorsements and the recommendations.
Humans will always favor a real emotional connection - it’s in our DNA. There is an obvious and ever-growing movement that is taking people away from automation in communication and bringing them back to real, one on one, human interactions.
Leaders who can curate and deploy a strategy that puts their audiences' wants and needs first, with empathy, kindness and transparency, will achieve greater levels of true connection in business, in relationships and in themselves.
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