I think leadership may be the most overlooked part of thought leadership.
Sure, ideas and expertise are important but they’re table stakes.
The moment we publish an idea — when we feel proud or tired or eager to move on to the next project — that’s the moment our target audience encounters the idea for the very first time. And that’s when the leadership role emerges.
In thought leadership, we ask people to change how they think and act. But, here’s the problem, they don’t have to listen us. Thought leadership without followers means we’re monologuing. Like a Shakespearian actor delivering a soliloquy to an empty theater. Brilliant but unheard.
So, let’s talk about what works. In thought leadership, we need to create “influence without authority” within a community. That means we need to be present, humble, and ready to listen and respond. And that’s true whether we’re trying to reach an internal audience — such as a sales team — or external audiences such as prospects, media, and public policy makers.
So, where to begin?
Examine what people are already talking about in your target audience. And then, do the hard work to engage with them. Be willing to talk about ideas that aren’t yours. Spark conversations and build community. That’s the leadership part of thought leadership.
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