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Is Thought Leadership a Numbers Game?

“Is Thought Leadership a numbers game?”
Sherene Strahan asked me this question this morning.
And it’s worth a longer look.

She asked: “Does someone have to have a big audience to be a thought leader?”

Here’s my POV:
Thought leadership takes good ideas to scale.
But what the heck is “scale?”
It seems squishy.
Can we get any more specific?

Well, I think about scale in several ways.

🌐 TAM (Total Addressable Market)
Some ideas have really huge potential audiences —
tens of millions of people.

Yet, other ideas are much more targeted.
And only suited for dozens of people.
Neither type of idea is inherently better.

I’ve seen thought leadership create great impact with a target audience in the low thousands.

🪨 Relevance
How important is the idea to your audience?
Is it a nice-to-know or a must-know?
If your idea has deep relevance,
then it people will seek it out and pull it to them.
If your idea has low relevance to your audience,
you will have to push a lot harder.

⬆️ Impact
When someone accepts the idea —
what will they do with it.
Will they use it in their *own* life?
Will they make it policy within an organization?
What will they do with the idea?
For example, policymakers can be a small audience
that produces very large impact.

❤️ Purpose
You can share a good idea with one person
and improve their life.
And that’s fantastic and good.
We need more of this work.
But 1-1 or 1-handful isn’t quite “scale.”

Here’s why.

If you’re only trying to reach one person–
or even a handful of people–
then you don’t need
all of thought leadership’s tools and techniques.

But once you start trying to take an idea to
dozens of people, then you
need to practice some thought leadership.

And by the time you want to reach hundreds,
you’re past your span of your personal influence.
Personal brand won’t help you.
You need the tools of thought leadership.

Sherene Strahan for a great question!

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