I grew up informed, fascinated and amazed by the commentary of Eric Sevareid, the legendary elite World War II correspond who’s views of politics, people and places were an important staple of the CBS Evening News.
Sevareid with his mastery of the written word, and the power of his simple straightforward delivery was my first exposure to Thought Leadership. Today, nearly four decades after his last Evening News commentary, the concept of Thought Leadership has been totally unleashed and now anyone with a social media account can – like Sevareid – distribute their views to a worldwide audience.
However, unlike Sevareid, our thought leadership can be broadcast without editorial oversight. While for some this freedom can be seen as the ultimate independence, I see it as the ultimate duty to present thought leadership ideas in ways that are clear, concise, correct and convincing.
What Is Thought Leadership?
Like most buzzwords, thought leadership is an often misused and misunderstood term. But what is it really? To me, it is simply sharing your knowledge on relevant topics within the field of your expertise.
A Case for Thoughtful Thought Leadership
I believe that everyone is a Thought Leader because we all have a specialty that can be shared with others. The question is will you decide to showcase that knowledge?
My answer is that you should. But thoughtfully – and with wisdom.
How do you do that? … Here are some thoughts.
1. Discover Your Audience
Find out the people and groups who are interested in your expertise. For example if your expertise is in the Civil War direct your thought leadership efforts to Civil War aficionados by finding online groups, activities and clubs that will have an interest in your thoughts.
2. Identify and Answer Questions
Thought Leaders show their true value by being the “go to person” for solving problems. Add value by finding the vexing questions of your audience and answer them. For example, many of my LinkedIn Ninja blogs originate from client questions.
3. Spread Your Thoughts Far and Wide
Distribute your ideas across multiple platforms and multiple channels. Today’s social media landscape makes it very easy to take the same content and share it in many ways. In my own case, I share my writings as emails and Tweets. They are on Facebook, LinkedIn and soon on will be on video on YouTube. I also keep a robust speaking schedule, again allowing me to showcase expertise.
4. Create Consistent Content
Now that you have an audience you must “feed the beast” by giving them consistent content. Because if you don’t, they will turn to someone else who will. For example, I deliver fresh content three days per week, typically posting a LinkedIn/Career/Professional blog on Sunday, A Faith blog on Tuesday and A Commentary blog on Thursdays. While this may seem like a lot of writing and work, it keeps me – and more importantly – my audience engaged in the important thought leadership questions of the day.
5. The R.O.I. of Thought Leadership
The investment of time and effort involved to produce thought leadership content has a payoff. While it’s not always immediate, thought leaders can expect:
- Employment offers because of demonstrated expertise
- Reputation as a professional problem solver because you “wrote the book” on how to solve specific problems
- Speaking opportunities because everyone wants to hear the expert
The Bottom Line: Great Thoughts Need A Thoughtful Leader
Another icon of my youth was the Bill Cosby inspired character Fat Albert said it best. “You know more that you think you know.” The greatest thought leaders of today’s TV and social media landscape, Oprah, Dr. Phil, and Richard Branson all started off just like you and me. Experts on critical topics become thought leaders because they have the courage to share what they know with others. So hey, hey, hey great thoughts needs a thoughtful leader…and, while you may not become the next Eric Sevareid, you will become the next you. And that is a thought worth spreading.