Becoming a thought leader in your field of expertise gives you an enormous advantage as an interim manager. Instead of having to look for clients, they will come looking for you – and this is how you become one.
Unless you happen to be a specialist in the history of 19th century United States of America, it’s highly unlikely that you’ve heard of Henry Ward Beecher. He was a congressman who vigorously opposed and fought against slavery. But unfortunately for him, that’s not his claim to fame. The reason why he’s still mentioned in articles, like this one, is that he was the first person in history to be called a ‘thought leader’.
Nowadays anybody who is anyone in the world of business would like to position themselves as a ‘thought leader’; someone who’s considered an expert on a specific subject, who’s invited to conferences as a speaker, and who’s advice is highly valued. This is exactly why every interim professional should try to become one. It is not easy, but if you succeed all your efforts will pay back your investment many times over in new assignments. Especially in a country like Sweden, where it has been almost a sin to consider oneself an expert, there is empty space to fill with your personality and insights!
These are some steps to get there:
1. Find your core message
What was it that made Steve Jobs stand apart from all the other CEOs – before and after his death? Why he is still quoted in articles, social media and on blog posts? It has to do with one very simple idea, and one which set him apart from the competition. Where all his competitors talked about technology, Jobs talked about people. He understood that how people use devices is much more important than the number of gigabytes or the speed of a processor.
So before you start writing or speaking in public take a moment to think about your core message. If you work, for example, in change management, how are your ideas different from your competitors? The stronger your core message, the more chances you’ll have of being noticed.
2. Connect with everybody that can help you
What do politicians do when they are running for reelection? In the past they used to get on a train or a plane to meet potential voters. Now they not only reach out to their voters through huge rallies in people’s hometowns, but also by connecting with them through social media, in virtual town hall meetings. This is one way they build their base rapidly across large geographical areas.
So take an hour to make a list of everyone you know who is in any way connected to your professional life. Once you’ve finished with this initial exercise, segment your list into relevant categories--Industry Leaders, Colleagues with Existing Online Presence, Super Connectors, and so on. They will be the first people you are going to connect to and interact with on social media – they will help you spreading your message by amplifying your content.
3. Start writing and speaking when and where ever you can
This is where the real work starts: begin writing blog posts, then publishing and promoting them on LinkedIn. Publishing is good way clarify your own thoughts, share your ideas with others and grow your following – but it doesn’t stop there. Whenever you feel comfortable enough with the story you want to tell, try to find as many opportunities to speak in public as you can. For example at network events, at the local library, with former clients or at your local Chamber of Commerce.
4. Entertain your audience
Everybody remembers the teacher in school or university that really inspired them. Was it because that teacher knew more about a specific subject? In fact, it’s more than likely other teachers knew more. However, the other teachers were probably uninteresting, so much so that we completely forgot about them. So don’t become that predictable, uninteresting teacher – set out to entertain your audiences, with jokes and interesting anecdotes, and they will remember you.