Whether you’re climbing the corporate ladder or running your own show, here are five ideas to position yourself for success as a thought leader this year.
Raise Your Hand: No matter which industry or community you’re in, there is likely to be a dearth of leaders willing to roll up their sleeves or take the helm. Check out your industry association, community boards or conference committees and raise your hand for a role in getting or keeping things on track. If you’re a lawyer, try the Bar Association either locally or nationally. If there are standards committees, legislative groups or regulatory boards in your field, look for opportunities to share your ideas and expertise. Yes, even if the only role available is Secretary, you should get involved and make a difference. Taking meeting minutes allows you to shape the message and place your imprint on what gets decided.
Raise Your Voice: There are bound to be a few issues this year that really matter to the decision-makers in your industry or community. Why not weigh in on those in a way that both showcases your expertise and keeps you top of mind with those that matter? This could include writing an Op-Ed, submitting an article to an industry journal or community newspaper, writing a post on LinkedIn Pulse or speaking with a reporter who is writing about the issue. Whichever you choose, it is important to craft a few key points that are timely, memorable and thoughtful. When you resonate with your audience, they will extend your reach by sharing your ideas widely.
Codify Your Lessons Learned: This is a stretch idea but if you’re experienced in your field, codify your lessons learned into a framework or blueprint and share it widely. Think through the steps you take when you approach a common problem in your area of expertise, explore how you can visually communicate those steps through an infographic, visual image or step-by-step guide. Use the search term “visual framework” in Google images to see examples that you can modify or build on. By sharing your expertise visually, you allow others to build on your ideas and will become recognized far beyond your inner circle as the go-to person in your niche.
Connect, Connect, Connect: The easiest way to stay top of mind is to regularly reach out to those who already know and respect you. One executive I know spends two hours every Friday afternoon calling people in his network on a rotating basis. He has no set agenda other than checking in, sharing ideas and asking about family and friends. As a result, he is often the first to hear about new trends, industry changes and opportunities, which gives him a distinct leg up on those who never (literally or figuratively) leave their cubicle.
Convene Your Community: My favorite idea for establishing yourself as a thought leader is to be the instigator of community connections in your industry, community, or field of expertise. Why not invite colleagues (inside and outside your organization) to join you for cocktails or dinner on a quarterly basis? If you love to cook, invite people over; if not, book a room at a local restaurant. (No, you don’t have to pick up the tab; have everyone chip in!) If you are attending an industry conference, fly in the night before and invite others to do the same, and convene a no-host gathering at the conference hotel. As the host, you set the agenda and have the opportunity to serve as emcee and even decide on the seating arrangements to assure that people have a chance to meet those they need to connect with. You’ll be remembered as the one who created collaboration and community where none previously existed and you are likely to be the one others turn to with opportunities in the future.
Share your own ideas. I welcome your thoughts.