Thought leadership and how it applies to you

One shining LED light surrounded by lightbulbs
Lisa Portolan
Tue 17 Sep

If the concept of thought leadership is unfamiliar to you, it’s been brewing in the background for some time but it’s about to make an epic landing in 2020. In fact we at The Shaker believe thought leadership is one of the key marketing trends for next year. Thought leadership relates to a specialist within the workplace or beyond providing commentary that might be pivotal to their area of expertise. This might occur through blogs, op-ed pieces, podcasts, vlogs or any other public facing platform. Some of the original thought leaders might spring to mind quickly, Tim Ferriss (The 4-Hour Work Week and Tribe of Mentors), Patty McCord (Netflix exec and author or Powerful) and Simon Sinek (marketing and communications guru). 

You might look at this list of names and think – I’m not that level, thought leadership is not for me. When in reality thought leadership has spread far and wide, and is sought at every layer of a business, from the CEO, through to the diversity and inclusion manager, and of course the technical expert. People are passionate about learning, and what better way to do so than by listening to a short podcast, or perusing a 600 word article? Amongst those words are a few pearls of wisdom which can be applied across industry and sometimes even outside of the work environment. 

In addition to building your brand, and your organisations brand, thought leadership also has a positive impact on internal culture. A CEO publicly stating objectives, vision and providing colour to this narrative, as well as personal anecdotes can have an immense impact on buoying spirits, bringing an entire organisation up-to-date and rallying positive sentiment. Similarly, discovering that an organisation has talent at all levels, from the HR manager to the technical expert, creates a culture of excellence, which is contagious. 

So, how can you get into thought leadership?

Whether you’re the CEO, middle management or a graduate, you’re likely an expert in something, and there is most definitely a story you should tell that will connect with people across Australia. Here are some top tips to refine your thought leadership approach: 

  • What are you good at? 
  • What are you passionate about? 
  • What story do you want to tell? 
  • Is that narrative topical? (you might like to align it to a particular vertical, or find a timely news hook to deliver your story) 
  • Do you need to clear this through your manager? 
  • How can you tell this story authentically? 
  • What is the right channel for you to broadcast your message? (podcast, personal blog, op-ed piece etc) 

The biggest barrier for most people is a sense that their content is not worthy of broadcast or their writing is not up to scratch. Confidence is key. Even the most astute thought leader will question their content prior to release. You might like to write your piece, sleep on it, edit it, and then share it with a friend or family-member who you feel comfortable with. This way you’ll be testing your content and getting feedback in advance. 

Finally, the most important element of thought leadership, is authenticity. You have an important story to tell, and it doesn’t need to be conflated or changed to fit in with contemporary narrative. 

Tell it how it is, and you’ll unlikely go wrong.