Gain influence with your ideas by straying from the pack

This graphic is based on a visual by Alan Weiss, Ph.D.

This graphic is based on a visual by Alan Weiss, Ph.D.

With traditional publishing giving up its dominant perch to e-publishing, social media and mobile displacing face-to-face communications, and all things digital making 24/7 appear quaint, the diligent consultant, small business owner or nonprofit with a distinct message has a lot of noise to cut through to be heard and not get caught in the maelstrom of an always on, always connected culture.

For a high-achieving professional with an important message, you can’t afford to let the noise drown out your message

So consider this option: instead of staying with the pack in your efforts to be heard, move off to the side. You’ll find a less-populated space, where your ideas can be so well known they shape how people think.

People who influence at this level are thought leaders, or public intellectuals, or thinkers.

As I noted in another article comparing experts to thought leaders, thought leaders are deeply knowledgeable people who want to make a difference and change the world.  They are notably influential. We let them influence us because we believe their ideas are important.

Earlier this year I led the first Thought Leadership Symposium for Women. I founded the Symposium to give high-achieving women the framework and tools for developing their ideas and voices as influencers and thought leaders in their field of expertise.

19 insights emerged from the Symposium that participants said would further their own thought leadership, and I’d like to share their comments here—the comments apply to anyone seeking to advance their standing as a known thinker.

  1. Looking for thought leading role models from 20 years ago isn’t relevant to how one needs to develop today. The competition wasn’t as fierce then. Non-fiction books had yet to take off. Across the spectrum, the landscape for ideas today is much harder to break into. On the other hand, technology mitigates this disadvantage somewhat by putting much more control in the hands of those who develop intellectual property.

  2. Writing and presenting peer-reviewed papers are critical to advance one’s standing

  3. Conduct strategic planning around thought leadership if you want to develop your standing as a thought leader.

  4. Thought leadership requires intensive work and personal commitment, now and in the future.

  5. Identify the kernel of your thinking and make an all-out effort to develop it. Effort and resources will be different for each person. For your idea to develop and have a platform to stand on, you must be fully committed to it.

  6. Efforts to build thought leadership require meeting new people, speaking to new audiences, and taking risks.

  7. Will need to educate clients on consulting practice changes, in order to retain these clients and gain entry to buyers at higher levels in their organization.

  8. Not all aspects of my core thought leadership topic will be directly tied to my consulting practice. It will encompass broader thinking, and connect my knowledge and insights to a much larger community.

  9. The Symposium format was an opportunity to spend dedicated and focused time with other consultants who want to spread their message much farther than their direct client and prospect base.

  10. Provided a platform for testing ideas and getting frank feedback from peers and experts.

  11. Having Symposium leaders and specific topic experts gave attendees a forum for digging deep into a variety of topics to learn from.

  12. Having a deep understanding of my core topic and getting it down to a few, pithy memorable words, is crucial.

  13. Need to know how to translate the complex jargon of my subject matter into more accessible language without inadvertently stealing someone’s idea, because many of my peers and I have brainstormed informally over the years, ideas fly, and it’s impossible to determine whether what I think is my original idea, is in fact someone else’s, or partly someone else’s. Honoring idea ownership is key.

  14. Spend time on self-reflection and discovery so that you advance into a new level of understanding.

  15. Determining who will be the first audience for my idea.

  16. Some of us already have so much IP to support our core idea, that now we need to funnel and focus it. Assess and use existing IP, repurpose where possible.

  17. Get the same speakers again! Their varied perspectives, styles, and subject matter really gave this the feeling of a true symposium (versus a workshop) and everything complemented everything else. It really made the whole event profound.

  18. The focus was around how one can make a difference, even in a niche market, rather than on egos and how wonderful each individual could be.

  19. The leaders presented the content framework and guidelines, then got out of the way so that group discussions could take over. People began the process of putting ideas into action during brainstorming and talking over with colleagues.

Attendees all agreed that being a thought leader is more than just about making money or doing well in one’s profession. It’s about making a difference and wanting to leave a legacy of ideas by adding your voice to the important conversations that affect our lives.

Share your idea for making a difference. What do you want to do now, or in the near future, to influence how people think?

Roberta Guise enables successful individuals to become thought leaders. She also works with experts, small business owners and professionals who want to accelerate their marketing results, be visible, and change the way people think. A small business marketing consultant and speaker, she is the founder of San Francisco-based Guise Marketing & PR. If you'd like to know how to apply these concepts to your situation, call for a free 1/2 hour consultation. 415-979-0611.