Thought Leader. Sounds impressive. I know, right? It’s something that I aspire to be. I think many of us would like to be heard; to make a difference. It won’t come easy. We need to be experts. We need to grow our knowledge. We need to do what? How did today’s thought leaders get to be, well, thought leaders? Was it luck? Yeah there’s an element of that to it.
How about being in the right place at the right time? That depends. Or having the right connections, or knowing the right people to help slingshot them on their way to greatness? Sign me up.
For most of us it’ll take a lot of hard work. And for many of us, even with a lot of hard work, we may never achieve that supersize goal. Sure, we can educate ourselves, promote and grow our businesses, maybe even write a book or three. But does any of that guarantee success as a thought leader? Do we even really know what makes a thought leader?
I think of a thought leader as someone who others go to for advice, inspiration, training, or just moral support. You don’t need to know them personally. You can just lurk around their universe, also known as “following” them on your favorite social media channel.
Let me tell you about some of the thought leaders that I know, have met, or just generally lurk around in a universal sense. Many of them are the biggies: John Lee Dumas (podcast thought leader), Mari Smith (Facebook thought leader), Michael Port (public speaking thought leader, Madalyn Sklar (Twitter thought leader), Michael Stelzner (social media marketing thought leader).
Let me also tell you about the thought leaders that I know or have known personally: my parents, the women in the Tucson Women’s blogging meetup group, the people in my Tucson podcasting group, and every single person I’ve interviewed for my podcast. We are all thought leaders. It’s just the magnitude that differentiates us.
Sure, some of these folks are way more successful than others. Some want to be more successful than they currently are. Most are happy with their accomplishments and yet strive to achieve the next level, whatever that next level is.
By nature, or DNA if you will, I’m an introvert. I used to tell my daughter that it was kind of ironic that an anti-social person started (and ended) a social media marketing company. Actually, I’m not an anti-social person or true introvert. I’m an ambivert. I’m somewhere in the middle. Really. I took a test and that’s what it said.
I like my own company, but I like being around people. Sometimes I like being around people but not WITH people. Like when I dine alone in a crowded restaurant, just me, myself, and I, and a bunch of other people at other tables.
I’ve always felt sad for people who can’t stand to be alone. I’m sure there are people that see me alone and feel sad for me. What does that have to do with being a thought leader you ask? A lot.
We all have varying degrees of creativity, which waxes and wanes over our lifetimes. Some of do our best work alone, while others work best in a group. Wouldn’t it be boring if we were all the same? There might be less conflict, but where’s the fun in that?
I’m inspired when I meet with my bloggers group. They are a bunch of intelligent women from all walks of life. I think that there’s nothing sexier than intelligence, although if you look at our group, none of us are way too sexy anymore, at least physically. But we’re awesomely sexy in an intellectual kind of way. But I digress.
In my reference to intelligence, I’m not talking book learning, but being present enough in your life to observe, listen, and respond. I hate it when I go to a fast food restaurant (I shouldn’t even go to those places but I do on occasion) and as I order the cashier repeats the order as if he/she has a hearing problem. YOU’RE TOO YOUNG TO HAVE A HEARING PROBLEM. Oh sorry, I didn’t mean to yell.
They’ve probably been trained to repeat the order to make sure it’s right but repeating it five times is a little excessive, don’t you think? Are you listening to me, fast food worker? Suggestion for that fast food worker – go to college. You won’t regret it. Not until your loans come due anyway.
Oh right, thought leadership. Let me get off my tangent. You never know who will inspire you to be the best you that you can be. That’s why it’s important to change your universe periodically. Kinda like an electron jumping orbital levels. Look that one up.
Or create a Venn diagram of your people orbits (you may need to look that one up too) to see where there are holes that need filling by assorted experts, and adjust yourself.
The late motivational speaker Jim Rohn said “we’re the average of the five people that we spend the most time with”. Very true. But what about the next five we hang out with and the five after that and so on? Don’t you think they have anything to contribute to your psychic acceleration? Not the “woo woo” psychic, but the soul or mind as in “mind, body, and soul”. I believe that we can learn from each and everyone that crosses our path. Both good things and bad things. What to do, and definitely, what not to do. It’s up to us to capture the good and incorporate it, and reject the bad.
So how will any of this make me a thought leader? By observing. By seeing what works and what doesn’t for those who are thought leaders, and how they use it. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, however you’ll get more points for being original in creating your own thing.
I read once that Eddie Van Halen would play his guitar with his back to the audience so that people couldn’t steal his style of playing. True? I don’t know but it sounds true. I’m sure there are quite a few guitar players that copied Eddie’s style even though they couldn’t see what he was doing. If you study something enough, and practice enough, in most cases you’ll improve. Will each of us improve enough to make a difference? The jury’s still out on that one.
But here’s the thing: it’s the journey. I may never get to the level of thought leader that I aspire to be. You may not either. But working towards that goal and getting to the next level, whatever that next level is, is the actual reward. And then you start working on the next goal and the next level. And the next. Stagnation is not the pool I want to swim in.
And that’s life. That’s the journey. Being a thought leader in whatever your specialty is will be important to someone else just as someone else’s knowledge and expertise is important to you.
So go surround yourself with all kinds of people. And maybe, just maybe, some of their brilliance will rub off on you. Or on me. I’m on my way to being a thought leader because I try and surround myself with the best. And I’m excited on my journey as a thought leader, because I’m working on it!