10 ⁄ 30 2016
Making the Transition from Executive to Thought Leader
- Executives and entrepreneurs are increasing their influence and visibility by becoming thought leaders.
- Building a social media presence and honing your message are keys to defining your executive brand.
In the past, it was challenging for executives and entrepreneurs to gain recognition beyond their company, organization, or division. Building a following or attracting the attention of people in a specific industry required strong media contacts, public speaking engagements, or a top-selling book. It’s no wonder that decades ago only a select few in each industry were able to emerge as thought leaders.
But with the reach, power, and accessibility of social media, many leaders in diverse industries are finding that increased recognition is simply a matter of mastering personal branding and social media. More and more, executives and entrepreneurs are positioning themselves as thought leaders. Twitter, LinkedIn, and even Instagram has made it possible for people with strong messages and likeable personalities to have a much more prominent role within their companies and their fields.
Why Become a Thought Leader?
Thought leaders do more than run a successful business. They rise to the top of crowded fields to emerge as driving voices. Thought leaders are aligned with current conversations and best practices in their industries; but they are also at the helm of the discussions, confidently steering and influencing topics, issues, and strategic direction.
Often, thought leaders are risk-takers, trend-setters, innovators, disruptors, and mentors. They are not afraid to test the boundaries of acceptability, challenge the status quo, and seek new ways to improve industry standards.
As a social media agency, we work with many successful executives and entrepreneurs who have gone beyond their roles in their organizations to become influencers within and outside their industries. They have emerged as thought leaders in such diverse topics as organizational management, company culture, leadership, technology, wellness, healthcare, coaching, academia, politics, and social entrepreneurship. And we work with others who are recognized as champions of global missions such as humanitarian causes, peace building initiatives, and social issues. Having built strong businesses or nonprofit organizations, many of these standouts have proven themselves as capable executives; but it’s their knowledge, passion, and desire to influence change that positions them as respected thought leaders.
If you are ready to embark on a journey to position yourself as a thought leader, here is your roadmap:
Define Your Executive Brand
How are you perceived in your organization and within your industry? Your leadership qualities, communication style, core beliefs, attitudes, and work ethic all shape your image and your executive brand. Your brand already exists; it is not something you need to manufacture. It is a blend of the value you provide, the emotions you evoke, and your overall reputation.
Identify and embrace the brand that is you. Understand the value you offer and the impact you can make. Those who have defined and hone their brands have the best chance of projecting authenticity and consistency, two qualities needed to attain thought leadership.
Develop Your Message
What do you want to say? What would you like to change? Who do you want to help? While you may have many views and passions, you need to focus. Having multiple objectives and spreading yourself thin will dilute your message and dampen your overall impact. When your message has a single underlying, consistent theme, you are better able to promote your cause and influence change.
You can communicate your message either by authoring content directly, or by sharing content that other people have written. Emerging thought leaders typically begin by posting content on social media from outside sources. This includes posting links to online magazine articles, information from company or industry publications, blog articles, and other media such as infographics, videos, and podcasts.
You can post this content directly to LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook accompanied by your own take on the stories, or you can simply share/retweet others. The key is to share content that aligns with your brand, voice, and message. Even though you did not originate the post, you are still able to position yourself as a thought leader by supporting content that shares your point of view.
Creating your own content is stronger than sharing others’ posts, although the best strategy uses a mix of both sources. Self-developed content includes blog articles, white papers, and other media. One of the advantages of creating your own content is that other people can share it on social media, thereby giving you an additional boost in visibility.
Establish Your Home Base
Your executive brand is separate from your company’s brand; and it needs to have its own home. While a personal website offers the most flexibility and impact, many emerging thought leaders are turning to LinkedIn as their home base. With a generous profile summary (2,000 characters), blog functionality, and the ability to share your ideas in professional groups, LinkedIn provides much of the same benefits as a personal website when it comes to promoting thought leadership.
Your base will be a powerful representation of your message. As you advance your message, build your following, and increase your influence, you will find opportunities to create a call to action. This can include a free or paid webinar, subscription to an email newsletter or webinar, joining a professional group that you started on LinkedIn, hiring you as a consultant or speaker, or purchasing a product or service from you.
Launch Your Social Media Campaign
With an understanding of your personal brand, a well-crafted message, a home base, and quality content to share, you are ready to make a splash on social media. With so many networks from which to choose, it is easy to become overwhelmed when first getting started. The good news is that there is no need to be active on every platform; the key is to identify the networks that work best for you.
As I mentioned before, LinkedIn is an excellent network to use to build your thought leadership if your message is targeted toward the business community. Many others gravitate to Twitter as their main platform because of how easy it is to build a strong following, spark engagement, get noticed by influencers, and generate website traffic. And if your brand has a strong visual component, Instagram is a great place to get noticed.
Are you ready to take your thought leadership to the next level? Schedule a consultation to see how we can help you make the transition from executive to thought leader.
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