What’s THE REAL REASON some authors, speakers and thought leaders have just 15 minutes of fame… while others lead their category year after year... after year?
I’ve been obsessed with this question for the last fifteen years. In working with New York Times bestsellers to CEOs of Fortune 500 companies - as well as entrepreneurs and leaders at all stages and levels - I’ve seen how easy it is to be led astray by conventional wisdom and the promise of what it delivers.
Conventional wisdom will tell you that with enough time, money and grit, you too can become the next [INSERT FAMOUS THOUGHT LEADER HERE].
I wish it were that simple.
If this advice were true, all the hard work you’ve been putting in so far would have generated better results. In fact, you’ve probably seen (or already experienced) how easy it is to waste time and money on strategies that are not right for you at all… or at least, not right for you right now.
Over the last 15 years I’ve listened to thousands of potential clients and audience members share one or more of the following experiences:
What gives? I can’t figure out what I’m doing wrong. I have successful clients and positive feedback from audiences, but I feel like I’m running in place and not growing my impact and income.
I’ve been copying Seth Godin’s “model” of writing daily blog posts for 6 months now and I’m not seeing results.
I just invested 15K in PR and media training and I have little to show for it.
I spent 20K on a new website and speaker reel without any increase in inbound leads.
I’m spending money to grow my followers on social and even hired a firm to help, but I’m not seeing a big bump in book sales or audience engagement.
I emptied my savings account and spent 50K on a bestseller campaign. I was on the bestseller list for a week but now my book is fading into obscurity. I haven’t recouped the money I spent - and I’m exhausted!
It pains me to see talented, hardworking thought leaders get stuck, waste resources and feel discouraged that their vision is slipping away. Why? All too often, these pitfalls are avoidable. While there are no magic bullets that will guarantee your success, conventional wisdom is like a siren song. It can lead you astray and away from the unique path required to realize your full potential as a thought leader.
Here’s what I know to be true. You don’t have to suffer through needless setbacks or get derailed by unnecessary distractions. Instead of allowing conventional wisdom to make your journey harder than it needs to be, you can choose a different path.
Although forging your own way can feel scary and riskier than using a prepackaged “strategy in a box,” here’s a glimpse of what’s possible:
Robin had a vision about how he could change the conversation around leadership. He’d been told he needed a book to make that happen and came to me with a nearly completed first draft. Although his potential as a thought leader was obvious, the book was not aligned with his business model or positioned to help him step into the impact he was called to create.
Instead of pursuing the conventional wisdom, we put the book on hold and shifted the positioning of his entire platform while also identifying and testing his true core message for leaders.
Three years later, his already successful business has more than doubled, his core message is receiving rave reviews from a growing audience, he landed a main stage keynote for a conference of 2,000 leaders - and all this before having a speaker reel or a new book!
When we met, Liane had already published two books, one of which was a New York Times bestseller. From experience, she knew that being a bestseller by itself wasn’t enough to realize her full potential as a thought leader. She came to me with her big idea - the one that would change the conversation for executives and organizations in a significant way. She knew she had to approach this book differently, both for the launch and for the long term impact she knew it could make.
Starting with her unique and compelling idea, we re-positioned her overall platform so that her audience would more easily recognize her as an influential voice for organizations. In addition to preparing for the launch, we identified the right strategic partners, industry groups and associations that would eagerly help her champion the message.
Eighteen months later, the successful launch of her book not only led to a waiting list for her consulting practice, but delivered a significant increase in speaking invitations including a main stage keynote for The Art of Leadership and a workshop for Google.
While Robin and Liane both received unexpected and fortuitous invitations along the way, their overall success is NOT the result of luck. Their success and impact is a result of two primary factors:
Recognizing the patterns that play out through the stages of thought leadership
Using that understanding to select the right strategies at the right time
The Stages Of Thought Leadership
Whether your message is about sales or parenting, marketing or health & wellness, leadership or communication, the stages of thought leadership are something that every messenger will experience and move through in pursuit of realizing their full potential.
Each stage is different and will require that you develop different skills and habits as well as internal capacities.
Stage 1: Incubation is about getting clear on the unique message you’re called to share and the specific audience that’s meant to receive it. This requires both courage and the ability to turn your seedling of an idea into something that audiences can grab onto.
Stage 2: Building is about “going public” and doing the work to refine your core message and develop an audience around it. This requires both consistency and the ability to build strategic relationships with key individuals and groups who can champion your message.
Stage 3: Momentum is about amplifying the successes you’ve created and re-calibrating your efforts so that you’re working smarter vs harder. This requires both the discipline to say no to enticing, but distracting invitations and the ability to turn single wins into multiple opportunities.
Stage 4: Mastery is not unlike the experience that Neo has at the end of the Matrix! You’ve achieved both continuous momentum and flow in and around your work. While your impact continues to grow exponentially, this stage is about truly enjoying the journey itself more than the specific goals you’re wanting to achieve.
Finding Your Unique Path
Although the stages of thought leadership (and their underlying patterns) are universal, your path through these stages is UNIQUE. When you have a unique and compelling message to share with the world, a one-size-fits-all strategy won’t do.
The steps you will take towards maximum impact will look different than the steps for someone with another message, audience, business model and vision for the impact they want to create.
By finding and following your unique path, you give yourself the greatest possible chance of achieving your full potential as thought leader.
Don’t you deserve a strategy that’s as unique and sophisticated as your message?
Ready to Take Your Next Step?
If you’re ready to find your unique path, let’s have a short conversation about your current stage and how I can potentially help you.
Even when you find your unique path - the one that’s a custom fit for your unique message - this journey is not all sunshine and roses. Changing the conversation in your industry will require you to exercise both:
Vulnerability and Courage
Determination and Flexibility
Strategy and Intuition
Consistency and Creativity
It will require you to “show up” even when you’re not getting the positive feedback and 5-star reviews as often as you’’d like. Although it feels personal, it’s just part of the inevitable ups and downs you’ll experience along the way to growing your impact.
The good news? There’s tremendous peace of mind (and ROI) that comes from knowing where you’re starting from, where you’re headed and having a unique, custom strategy that’s right for you.