I love wonderful thought leaders. My life is so much richer because people who have travelled similar areas to my own before me have held out a hand to share their honest experience, insight, and to teach and encouragement me. Many inspired thought leaders start off as practitioners of something – coaches, leaders or therapists, and as time goes on, their perspective widens. They see underlying patterns, and they recognize that what they thought was purely persona, actually has a more universal applicability. As thought leaders, we can “diagnose” what is going on with the people we serve and what they need, because its probably what we have known.
I aim to do the same for others now, in the area of Inspired Leadership and how we can enable the best in ourselves and each other, to liberate our own and each other’s talent.
Obviously, wanting to even be a thought leader can be a massive ego trip, effectively saying: “Look at me, and how much I know, look at how amazing I am!” It can be a form of bragging and grandiosity. But I think great, inspired and effective thought leadership can also be a wonderful act of service and generosity. It can be your “ministry,” the way you powerfully serve and share your gifts, when you have a calling to share, a desire to inspire because you know what’s possible.
Being a successful thought leader doesn’t mean you have all the answers. It means you personally have triumphed, you know the territory and you are good at helping people find their own resourcefulness and answers to reach their promised land.
Having studied immersed myself in thought leadership for around three decades now, these are my top ten tips for you to step into your own inspired thought leadership.
- Recognise the universal in your personal experience. We often start off thinking our dreams, fears, inspirations, challenges and problems are unique to us. We can come to see that it is not just us, we are all living out individual versions of universal ideas. We are all seeking to be the hero and heroine of our own life. Our job is to go deeper in to our Self-understanding. Shilpa, one of my clients, spent much of her life doing her best to keep her own soul intact in the face of societal and family pressure to conform. She went on to create a pioneering school that she could send her own daughter to, to enable her daughter’s soul to be kept intact too and realized this was attractive to many families.
- Articulate your niche. I think one of the most powerful things we can do is to figure out and articulate, “Who are we for?” and equality importantly, “Who are we not for?” I call these our Signature Clients. Its easy to believe, “This is everyone, they all need this!” Firstly, I simply don’t think that’s true and secondly if we try to be for everyone, we can easily end up being for no-one. Your true clients don’t see themselves mirrored back in what you are offering. You also need to be able to articulate “What are you for?” Shilpa realised that although the children were “her people”, she saw that she needed to attend to the work of reassuring parents, acknowledging their fears and insecurities, and helping them feel good too. She was about helping the whole family feel good about education and “Keeping their souls intact.”
- Turn your stream of ideas and thoughts into structured thinking. Once you have accumulated a body of wisdom and experience, it can be tempting to try to share everything you know each time you start to share anything. This is neither helpful and or possible. Once you are clearer on “Who you are for,” you also have a clearer sense of where your people are in their lives, what they know, what they don’t know, what their values are, what they aspire to and what their fears are. Then you know where to start, and you can create a series of “Structured learning journeys” for them to meet them where they are and help them evolve. You can learn to “slice and dice” your body of knowledge in ways that are truly helpful for them. I call these your Signature Journeys or Programmes.
- Learn to edit and distil to the essence. Its easy to be long winded! So, another powerful thing to do is to get to the heart of your thought leadership, which can be hard as it involves leaving out so much of what you know and love saying. I help clients to develop their six to ten “Core leadership messages,” and they are often shocked, relieved and inspired by this level of clarity and power. I find that each time I start writing a new book, I aim to edit it down to its core messages as soon as possible as then I feel I have really “got” the book I am writing, and the whole books is really the expansion of those core messages or ideas.
- Become more consciously competent. You may well know that you do something that works, but you aren’t really clear precisely what you do that works. You know you are competent, but you are not particularly conscious of your precise competence. We work together to unpack and identify your Intellectual Property, so you can become more consciously competent and subsequently more confident.
- Think student/client. Another powerful shift that inspired thought leaders make it to “think client or think student.” We have all probably been in the presence of experts who undoubtedly knows a lot, but haven’t necessarily engaged us well. Great thought leaders have a powerful humility. They know what they know, they are powerful, and they remember what it was like not to know. So they continually put themselves in the shoes of the people they are sharing with. They retain a powerful empathy, and retain their “beginners mind.” Shilpa had to remember what it was like to be that scared parent, as well as the pioneering school leader.
- Develop the three elements of your job description. Your job as thought leader is a combination of three things: you inspire, you teach and educate, and you often coach and mentor people too. You help open people’s minds to new ideas and possibilities; you show them “How to” and the strategies involved; and then you often walk next to your clients and coach them to implement the ideas and overcome the obstacles and draw out their resourcefulness.
- Understand structure to create products and programmes. As an inspired thought leader, you also learn the skill of “Information and inspiration packaging.” You learn how to take your body of knowledge and firstly “modularize it” and then “productise” it into powerful talks, workshops, trainings, books and programmes. I helped Shilpa design her first talk so she could go out to other networks and spread the word and inspire others.
- Establish your credibility by sharing your story. Whilst there is great value in credentials like an MBA or a PhD, we also see the value in learning by your experience, the credibility that derives from your real life implementation. For example, there is great value in studying business and leadership, as there is in leading and running your own business. We love people who are the living proof. I know some people have reluctance to tell their own story, saying things like, “Its not about me, I don’t want to brag or show off,” but showing up in your grandeur gives hope, inspires and empowers others. It is very generous, and I believe, actually selfish to hide out. Your own life, your challenges, triumphs and achievements, are as valid a training ground as any qualification you may have. Shilpa has a successful school to demonstrate that the power of ideas she stood for worked. The pupils got great academic results, were creative and willing to lead, and were happy.
- Lead the way by raising your visibility and letting more people about know you. You learn to show up, share ideas and market your thought leadership solutions in ways that have integrity for you, so you can cast your net further to reach and serve more people. Some people call this marketing, but marketing with fun and integrity, with the intention of serving people, not just selling to them.
If you have accumulated a body of experience, your experience can be mined for its wisdom and insight, and then transformed into useful products and programmes that serve others.
If you can get to London, I am running an Inspired Leadership community event on November 21st in Central London on the subject of stepping into more of your Inspired Thought Leadership. You can see full details here: http://iamnickwilliams.com/autumn-series/
I am the author of 15 books so far, and my sixteenth, Be Inspired, Be Inspiring, Be Yourself – A Leadership Guide to drawing the best out of yourself and others is published in March 2019. MD’s and leaders of their own projects hire me to help and coach them to set themselves on fire again to be inspired, being inspiring and be themselves. I help them unfold their projects and the next adventures in their leadership calling. I am also a key-note speaker on this subject and have spoken in seventeen countries across the planet.
If you would like to arrange a conversation about unwrapping the next chapter of your inspirational thought leadership, please e mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org