I just got off the phone with a business owner who agreed we should NOT work together. And we both feel great about it! I was talking to her about thought leadership and what it would mean to have her very best content in print and in the public domain. She said she was not really interested in that, and she’s not willing to put the time and effort in. We agreed to disagree and ended the conversation amicably.
This conversation tends to come up a lot for me, as I like pushing entrepreneurs and executives to consider becoming thought leaders – with everything that entails.
Real thought leadership means pushing yourself and pushing your thinking – and there are no shortcuts. No ghost-writer can ever capture your thoughts and wisdom and express them as well (or as authentically) as you can. You cannot ‘outsource your thinking’. And people who try to do that tend to get a nagging feeling in the pit of their stomach because they know they are cheating in a way.
Maybe you know what I’m talking about. At some point, you start to feel that just churning out content is less than satisfying, and you may even start to resent writing articles and blogs for the sake of it, and rehashing ideas that you don’t even feel very excited about yourself. You may feel like a bit of a fraud, or at the very least, a little guilty.
This is decision time. Do you continue to look for the path of least resistance and the easy road, or do you make the extra effort to explore and craft new, original, exciting, ground-breaking and even thought-leading ideas?
Do you keep following the herd, who are all listening to the same ‘gurus’, or do you carve your own path and take a few risks with your ideas and the ways in which you can share them?
Of course, the second option means more work, and this in itself can be off-putting. We’re busy people, after all! However, the intense satisfaction and fulfilment that comes from putting your very best ideas into the market soon makes up for any discomfort and stress about time and priorities. When you decide that your highest priority is your brand and reputation, the decision is easy. You can’t possibly put out mediocre content any longer.
Can I get a little spiritual and ‘woo-woo’ here? I know we are all business people, but we are still people and we still have basic human needs. When those needs are not being met, there is a disconnect and even a sense of discomfort. The human need I’m thinking of is ‘significance’. As I said in 24 Carat Bold,
Nobody likes to think that they didn’t produce anything important during their lifetime, that their life didn’t matter… Most of us want to make our mark on the world, something that will go on even after our career has ended, and maybe even after we are no longer around.
To make your mark these days, in such a noisy, crowded world, you need to be truly exceptional and produce truly exceptional content. You need to put more thought into your thought leadership, and then you will begin to have insights that others don’t get from their cursory attempts at posting, blogging, curating other people’s stuff and putting simplistic content out into the world.
Social media is a blessing and a curse in that it allows instant feedback. I’ve seen posts that have little to no engagement, likes, shares etc. and I know the creator of that post will keep refreshing their screen and feeling disappointed. It’s kind of like talking to someone who won’t make eye contact or is obviously not interested in listening to you. It’s been proven that likes, shares, follows and other types of engagement create the feel-good endorphins like serotonin. Our brain translates ‘they like my content’ to ‘they like me’ and it represents validation. But it is only the content that has extra thought invested into it that garners passionate engagement.
So, thought leadership is not for the faint-hearted, but it is rewarding when you do it correctly. I strongly believe that expressing yourself, and sharing your biggest, boldest ideas articulately, is critical for strong self-esteem and mental health. Good luck!