Thought Leadership

2 Truths and 1 Lie About Thought Leadership

AlexiaCareer Advice, Public Speaking

I recently led a virtual half-day retreat for the women in my Spotlight Speakers Collective. We talked about how to transition from thinking of ourselves as speakers, business owners, and influencers to thought leaders building movements that go beyond presentations, training, programs, and individual client offerings. We explored how to create larger ripples of impact through brand partnerships, physical product lines, licensed intellectual property, and train-the-trainer programs. So. Many. Ideas. Birthed!

One of the things I love about the Collective is that seasoned keynote speakers and media contributors participate alongside women who’ve taken a sharp, 180 degree turn and are relaunching new businesses (or hitting the reset button and developing a new body of work)—and want to go far, fast!

Some of my gals had moments of INFEA (I’m Not Far Enough Along)—when they compared themselves to their Collective sistas.

And that’s a big ole, hairy, gassy lie.

Someone in the toddler years of her thought leadership may not book a TEDx, secure a hotshot speaking agent, or land national media (although I’ve got multiple examples of clients and program participants who have).

Truth #1: There are PLENTY of opportunities to create a ripple of impact and begin to develop and disseminate your thought leadership—and create the platform needed to go for bigger visibility opportunities—no matter what season your career/business is in.

Truth #2: While you can pitch yourself for thought leadership opportunities (i.e., send pitches to event organizers, podcast hosts, magazine editors, etc.), some of the best opportunities will come from your network.

So, if your long-term goal is to have opportunities come to you, which it should be!, the best short-term goal is to build relationships with decision makers and become a go-to trusted thought leader for them.

Not sure how to connect powerfully with the influencers in your industry? Here are four strategies I’ve used, and that I teach my clients, that will catalyze your success.

  1. Go to events where your decision makers go. Speaking at events is ideal. If that is currently out of reach, consider moderating or sitting on a panel at the event, hosting a meet-up in tandem with the event (and inviting your dream guests to attend—or, consider hosting him/her/them for a quick fireside chat at the meet-up), or purchase VIP ticket/preconference workshop options that give you personalized time with a person whenever possible.

  2. Ask your coaches and mentors for introductions. This might sound super obvious, but one of the reasons to work directly with a coach, or to choose someone as your mentor, is to benefit from their tribe. While it’s important to respect that a lot of folks in that leader’s network may not be open to introductions, others will be. So, ask!

  3. Champion the work of the people you want to woo. This might mean re-Tweeting an article with a note about why it moved you, or leaving a thoughtful review on Amazon when someone’s book comes out. (And no, I’m not jockeying for book reviews… yet! Simply reminding you that if you want people to love up on you, make sure you are loving up on them early and often and in personalized, respectful ways!) Another idea— recommend your favorite thought leader as a keynote speaker at your company, professional association, or industry conference. Back when I was a chapter leader of my association, actually associations—chapter leadership was an important way for me to serve, grow my leadership skills, and enhance my contacts—I built a lot of connections driving speakers to and from the airport!

Wherever you are with your speaking, business, and thought leadership, as many wise thought leaders before me have advised, do not compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.

In other words, remember, everyone starts at the beginning, comparisonitis is as lame (and painful) as eating Tide pods, and the fastest way to accelerate and amplify your impact is to avoid the INFEAs and, instead, go after appropriate visibility opportunities while building the tribe that will allow you to step into the fullest expression of your thought leadership.