One of the biggest buzz phrases right now is creating this crippling dichotomy in our meetings and events industry.
The buzz phrase? “Thought Leadership.”
It’s either empowering us to grab hold of our strengths and talents, and help others with knowledge; or driving us into a well of imposter syndrome and shame.
Why do these two words create so many mixed emotions? I think its largely because the term “thought leadership” is misunderstood.
Thought leadership is said to be, “the expression of ideas that demonstrate you have expertise in a particular field, area, or topic.” It’s also widely believed you are becoming an influence for your peers by providing valuable insights.
For many of us, words like “expertise” and “valuable insights” can scare us into thinking that our expertise isn’t expert enough, or wonder if our insights are really that valuable. Those words lead us to believe that thought leadership can be a powerful brand vehicle for those with extreme confidence, but not for the average professional who is still figuring things out. A majority of us fear being judged by others for our less-than-perfect insights, and so rather than share them openly on social media, we retreat to the safety of our work cubicle and think, “the world isn’t missing much if I choose not to share.”
And it’s heart-breaking. In my opinion, everyone has the capacity to be a thought leader. To not explore what that could look like for you as a professional, is in fact selfish.
The word “expertise” is subjective, and it runs an entire spectrum. Your expertise is needed by someone. To hold back what you know, because of perceived judgement, fear or apathy, is to rob your audience of growth. The best advice I heard when I started sharing insights of my own, is that one only needs to know 10 per cent more than their target audience. 10 per cent! That’s it! So if you know how to cast a fishing rod into the water, you know 10 per cent more than those that have never picked up a rod before in their life! You don’t need a 20-lb trout on your wall to prove you’re the go-to expert, you just need to be able to show someone how to cast a line.
For the meeting planner out there that just finished a sustainable event, you don’t need to know all the in’s and out’s of creating a carbon neutral event to talk about it. You need only share how you got started, and how you involved your stakeholders. That’s thought leadership.
Or for the hotel sales person that creatively helped a client turn a parking garage into a tradeshow space, sharing your process is thought leadership.
A 10 per cent edge. About anything.
Thought leadership doesn’t need any grand gestures, like Steve Jobs introducing the first iPhone to the world. In fact, your own thought leadership can be started by simply:
- Creating conversation about a trend or topic
- Sharing a story that shows your experience with the topic
- Offering a unique perspective on a topic or trend
- Communicating a desire to know more about a topic
- Giving others space to offer their perspectives and/or;
- Acknowledging that there are different perspectives, and we are all unique messengers.
Thought leadership is NOT about having all the answers.
Thought leadership is NOT about a perfect record.
Thought leadership is NOT about hierarchy.
Thought leadership is NOT about being the first to talk about it.
Thought leadership is the sharing of insights and knowledge, rooted in a desire to develop one’s personal brand, and a desire to be in service to others. That’s my definition of thought leadership, one that is inclusive and selfless.
And hopefully one that will encourage you to become your own brand of thought leader. I, for one, can’t wait to hear what you have to say.
To owning your own thought leadership,
Leanne Calderwood, CMP, is a branding and LinkedIn trainer for the meetings, events, and hospitality industry. She believes our industry is built on experiences, and that experience should start with our professionals.
She serves hospitality professionals and teams through her online courses and consulting services to help guide #eventprofs out of the shadows and into the spotlight using their branding strengths and stories.
When she’s not talking shop, you can find Leanne drinking tea, making jam, and gardening at her home in Kelowna, B.C. with her husband, two teenage sons, and her dog, Farls Barkley.
You can learn more about Leanne over on her blog at www.leannecalderwood.com.
Heather Reid says
This is “thought leadership on thought leadership”!!! Bravo Leanne – what a fabulous way to encourage all meeting professionals to share what they know and what they’ve learned!!! THANK YOU for this article – a gentle nudge to those thinking about sharing content – and a great reminder to those sharing content already!!