Thought leadership. We hear about it occasionally in the online coaching and entrepreneurship space, but I’d argue that it’s not talked about enough.
When we do hear it, it feels very abstract and we’re often confused about what thought leadership means for us as coaches or service based entrepreneurs.
I believe why this topic isn’t commonly talked about is because I’d argue that a lot of coaches and entrepreneurs don’t necessarily embody thought leadership within their own content or business.
I say this because I often see other coaches or entrepreneurs draw heavy inspiration from and model after their favorite coaches and entrepreneurs.
For example, how often do you see a post on Instagram and instantly think, “This person must have learned from this other person.” or “This post gives off the vibe of this other person.”.
When I scroll through my own Instagram feed, this is a thought that often comes up.
I’m not accusing anyone of flat out copying someone else. That would be a whole other issue on its own.
What I’m saying is when your content makes your audience wonder who your inspiration is, that detracts from your authority because people aren’t necessarily viewing you as the original source anymore.
When this is the case, I’d argue that it’s more difficult for you to be seen as a thought leader within your niche.
But this leads to the question: Why is it even important or relevant to showcase your thought leadership? Why do you even want people to view you as a thought leader?
I first want to share why I think this question even exists in the first place.
The reason why someone might wonder why they should strive to embody thought leadership in their own business or content is because they themselves aren’t sure if they’re capable of being recognized as one themselves.
Personally, I’ve heard from several individuals on different occasions that they recognize the value of being seen as a thought leader.
But they think this title or label of being a thought leader is only reserved for people who are well known. People with large audiences, fancy credentials or extensive accomplishments, awards and recognition.
Basically, they put this concept of thought leadership on a pedestal and see it as something that they don’t necessarily fit the mold of.
However the question we should be asking is, what is thought leadership?
According to the Cambridge Dictionary website, a thought leader is “an expert on a particular subject whose ideas and opinions influence other people, especially in business”.
I think the word “expert” within this definition is where most coaches and entrepreneurs get thrown off.
Because I think many people don’t necessarily view themselves as experts. Even if they’ve worked with many clients and their clients have seen awesome transformations.
And this makes sense, because our entire lives we were led to view an expert as someone who traditionally has a ton of credentials or accomplishments that are well known and well respected.
So, when they think of the word “expert” or “thought leader”, it’s really natural to feel like we can’t identify ourselves as one.
I want to challenge us all to look at thought leadership from another angle.
If I had to define thought leadership, I’d argue that it means someone who leads with their thoughts.
More specifically, it’s someone who leads with their thoughts irrespective of how much or how little external validation they get.
In the context of the coaching industry or online entrepreneurship, I see a thought leader as someone who shows up and stays committed to sharing their thoughts even if it’s dead silent from their audience or even if they have others challenge their ideas and viewpoints.
A thought leader continues to stand firm in their thoughts no matter what.
I draw inspiration for this definition from a lot of philosophers and researchers throughout history.
There are endless instances where we have someone whose thoughts were rejected for years and years, until people started finding evidence to suggest that maybe this person was right all along.
An example is Nicolas Copernicus from the 16th century.
Copernicus believed that the sun was the center of the universe, and that the earth and other planets revolved around the sun.
However, the prevailing belief at the time was that the earth was at the center of the universe, and the sun and other planets revolved around the earth.
Copernicus was literally the first modern scientist to propose this so-called heliocentric theory, despite everyone else believing in what was called the geocentric theory.
A lot of people strongly opposed Copernicus’ theory, especially religious leaders.
In fact, throughout Coperniucs’ life and even up to his death, his theory was not accepted.
It wasn’t until the late 18th century when enough evidence was accumulated by people afterwards that eventually led Copernicus’ theory to finally become universally accepted.
To this day, we continue to attribute the heliocentric theory to Copernicus.
This is what I mean by thought leadership.
This is how committed a thought leader is to their own theories, and this is how I want all of us to stand firm behind our own theories and ideas.
Of course, this may be a pretty extreme example.
I’m not saying that your thoughts and ideas aren’t going to be accepted.
In fact, it’s very likely that there will be a large pool of people who agree with your standpoints and want to hear what you have to say.
However, what I do want to make clear is that I really want to urge you to back what you’re saying, even in moments of silence from your audience or when you get that one comment disagreeing with you.
As a thought leader, I need you to continue showing up and sharing your thoughts no matter what the external validation looks like.
Coming back to the context of being a coach or online entrepreneur, what could your thought leadership look like?
Very simply put, a question I’d like to offer you to think about when it comes to figuring out what your own thought leadership could look like is what do you want to be known for?
This is a super simple question.
But if I asked you this right now, are you able to answer it?
Chances are, you may need some time to think about it.
So, take your time and think about what you want to be known for.
Personally, another way I like to look at this question is, what is my Theory?
What is the Theory I want to be known for in my lifetime and after I leave this earth?
I want to be known for helping modern day high achievers to realize that they no longer have to subscribe to any traditional or stereotypical “cookie-cutter” paths of success.
I want us to all be okay with the fact that there is no set of career paths or series of action steps you “have” to do to be “successful”.
You get to define success on your own terms and create a lifestyle and career that you actually want and believe in.
This leads directly into the work I do inside my business and inside my coaching program.
Specifically, I’m here to serve high achievers and thought leaders who want to create a business and brand that makes an income and impact and also be known for their story, message, or work.
Many of my audience want to step outside of the traditional career path and create something even bigger and with greater impact, but they’re extremely hesitant to do so because that’s not what they were taught to do.
Growing up, they were told that only a select few career paths are considered “good enough”, so their desire to step out of the box is highly uncomfortable.
They end up making tons of excuses about why they can’t or shouldn’t even try.
Now, I also want to add that this “non-traditional” path doesn’t have to be a business.
It can be an entirely different career from what they’re currently doing or maybe even a large-scale project.
Whatever this looks like, my message and story is what they need to hear to feel assured in their goals and to finally take the first steps towards those goals.
After that, they’ll see that their story, message, or work is actually of tremendous value to someone else out there, which then becomes the fuel to the fire to keep going.
In the long run, they create new opportunities in their life (e.g. business, career, networks, etc), stop comparing their lives or success with others, and start designing a life that is fully on their own terms.
For those specifically who want to start building an online coaching or service-based business, that’s where my private coaching program comes into the picture.
In our coaching program, we focus on helping you sign consistent clients so that you too can make a full time income on part time hours.
When you are able to grow their business in a way that doesn’t feel like a second full-time job, this frees up your time for other areas of life (e.g. family, health, etc) and ultimately allows you to create more options in their career/life (e.g. They have the choice to go full-time in their business if they wish.) so you can create a life that lets you be present for what matters most to you and the people around you.
This is a brief synopsis of what I want to be known for, and how it directly ties into the work I do inside my business.
I think it’s important for all of us to get clear on what our own version of thought leadership looks like and to actually articulate it to our audience.
Because this is exactly what is going to help you stand out among all the other coaches and entrepreneurs doing and selling the exact same thing as you.
With everyone sharing the same generic tips, motivational messages, and step by step guides, how are you going to stand out from the crowd?
It’s your thought leadership that’ll do just that for you.
It really comes down to how you’re going above and beyond what everyone else in your niche is doing.
For example, for every tip you share in your content, how can you also demonstrate your thought leadership in that piece of content?
Because if you simply share those three super basic tips, the chances of another coach for entrepreneurs producing a similar post is pretty high.
That’s why I want to challenge you to not just share the tips, but think about how you can add an extra flair of thought leadership.
When you’re thinking about how to actually showcase your thought leadership, the first thing to consider is: What are your thoughts?
Like, literally. What thoughts do you have?
This can be interpreted as your own opinions, lived experiences and personal examples.
Your perspectives on common topics. Your original ideas. Your story.
Literally, anything inside your brain, counts as your thoughts.
A common mistake people will fall into when it comes to their content in general is that they look around at what others in their niche are posting and talking about, and they immediately think that’s the secret to success.
They think, “Oh, if this person is posting about this, I should do that too because clearly it seems to be working for them.”.
What tends to happen is that you’ll intentionally or unintentionally find yourself talking about the same topics as your peers.
You’ll find yourself using similar language and key words that they’re using.
You may also find yourself positioning your stance or opinions in a way that pretty much looks and sounds like them.
Again, I’m not accusing anyone of blatantly copying someone else, but I do want to ask you to think about whether you’ve taken a lot of inspiration from people in your niche.
Because when this does happen, it’s really hard to be perceived as a thought leader from your audience, let alone believing that you yourself can be a thought leader.
I really want to challenge you to drastically cut down your consumption time and to almost eliminate paying attention to what others are creating.
What their posts and captions are.
What they have on their sales pages and website.
What their prices are and freebies they’re putting out.
Cut out the time you spend trying to analyze other people’s stuff, and use this time and cognitive energy to think and create using your brain.
When you’re able to create using your own thoughts, you will no longer be sacrificing your long term gains for short term gains.
This means that you’re committed to the long term vision for your business as well as to yourself for becoming known as a thought leader in your niche.
When you’re first starting to think about stepping into the role of a thought leader in your specific niche, it’s important not to give up just because people aren’t immediately saying, “Wow, that was exactly what I needed to hear.” or “Wow, that really resonated!”.
Don’t expect to gain traction overnight just because you shared your opinion once on Instagram.
I need you to keep going because things are working, even when the external evidence doesn’t seem like it.
I need you to prove to yourself and your audience that you’re committed to this new direction.
People need time to trust that you’re committed to these unique perspectives.
Don’t just share your unique thoughts and perspectives and ideas for a few days and give up.
People won’t trust you if they see that you talked about something really interesting for only a week, but after, it seems like you’re not into it anymore. Guess it was temporary after all.
Remember, people will take interest only when they see that you’re consistent and committed to sharing your unique thoughts, ideas and perspectives overtime, irrespective of the external validation you receive.
When you’re committed to embodying thought leadership in your content, this also means you’ll need to stop making it about how you feel aka you not wanting to hear silence or you sharing something just for the goal of receiving likes and direct messages (DMs) and other forms of external validation.
Instead, I want you to share your thought leadership from a place of genuinely wanting to impact others through your thoughts.
It’s not about you. Make it about helping others.
And of course, when you offer value, you get paid.
But also, it’s not about the volume of content, but it’s really as simple as sharing your honest opinions and unique perspectives.
Gone are the days where you can simply reshare and regurgitate other people’s content and that’ll get you clients.
Actually, I’m not sure if that ever worked.
What is necessary for you to grow your business is to create content that challenges people’s beliefs.
Create polarizing content that makes people think.
Create content that is based on your own unique perspectives around a supposedly common issue.
From today onwards, I encourage you to think about what content you can start creating , and to create it on a consistent basis.
That will ultimately reflect your own thought leadership.
When you start to commit to embodying your thought leadership in your content, that’ll compound overtime and reflect in the results you’ll see in the long term.
In other words, stay committed starting today. This is what will lead you to be recognized as a thought leader within your niche overtime.
Of course, how you currently articulate your ideas and your communication skills may not necessarily be where you’d like it to be right now.
Maybe you feel like your messaging isn’t clear or strategic enough.
But guess what? You need to show up anyway and stay committed to improve week after week.
This WILL compound.
Stay committed to creating higher quality value with every touch point you create through your content.
It’s like a snowball. Right now, you may feel like a little snowflake, but soon you’ll snowball into an actual snowball, and that snowball will snowball into a giant avalanche that literally takes over the entire mountain.
Hope that metaphor makes sense.
The key point here is to start compounding the value you give, start compounding your thought leadership, and start compounding your consistency and commitment to becoming a thought leader.
There will be returns in the long run, but you’ve got to start putting in the deposits today in order for it to compound and snowball.
If you’ve been within my community for awhile, you may know that I talk about your energy when you show up.
The reason I keep on emphasizing this is because a lot of communication is non verbal.
People often don’t remember what you said, but how you made them feel.
Think about it: How do your favorite coaches and entrepreneurs online make you feel?
What energy do they give off?
Then think about how you want your audience and clients to think and feel when they consume your content.
You can usually tell who’s wavering and not confident in themselves, and on the other hand, you can also usually tell who has their own back and trust in their own thoughts and truly believe in the mission of their work.
People can tell because of the overall energy.
This energy simply comes from you genuinely believing in the thoughts you share, the work you do, and belief in yourself as an entrepreneur who has value to offer the world.
When you’re so busy trying to grow your vanity metrics by creating similar content as others, just know that trying to get more followers and likes will probably take longer than signing on paying clients if you were to commit to sharing your unique thoughts.
People can tell what energy you’re operating from.
I invite you to first think about what thoughts and ideas you want to be known for, and start showing up to share these thoughts, opinions, ideas and perspectives no matter what.
People just want to sense that energy from you and to see that you’re committed to your own thought leadership regardless of the external validation.
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