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How to be a thought leader

Thought leadership is a bit of a marketing buzzword – vague and cringey, and unlike lead generation, hard to measure.

There’s no recipe for success. 

What does it mean on a day-to-day level for your business – and how do you do it well?  

The Portfolio Collective have invited me to speak at an event on ‘Raising your flag and becoming a thought leader’ and share my experiences on how I’ve done it with the future of work community and wider audience.

Thought leadership is about how people in your industry (and your customers) perceive you. 

  • James Clear (the habits guy) 
  • David Perell (the writing guy)
  • Pieter Levels (the nomad guy)
  • Amy Porterfield (the digital marketing gal)
  • Rosie Sherry (the community gal)
  • Bret Contrevis (the glute guy)
  • Ben Legg (the portfolio career guy) 

A niche focus makes you memorable.

One of my clients, a property agent, wanted to be the No #1 international agent in Berlin. So we positioned him as the ‘Berlin champion’, and put his face on the side of their black cabs so he was visible across the city. He wasn’t afraid to criticise government policy and say why it was harming the housing market so had a reputation as honest and trustworthy. Many of their leads were long-term clients.

How to be a thought leader

Think about your overall strategy and take a high-level overview before you decide on the content mix. What problem are you solving with your product/service? How are you going to get people from A to B? 

Some food for thought on the three types of thought leadership:

  1. Industry (a point of view on news, trends + the future)
  2. Organisational (company culture, talent development) 
  3. Product (how-to, best practices, strategy)

Do all three if you can, and if relevant: develop your point of view and then create content. If you’re overstretched (companies have teams working on this stuff), focus on one area and do it well. It can feel overwhelming for solopreneurs, so start small and be a thought leader for your clients and customers first, to build trust. 

Look at engagement over metrics – time on pages of your website and how many articles people read is more important than views and impressions. 

Thought leadership takes time, energy, consistency and authenticity, but it’s hugely rewarding and can transform your business. It’s not about self-promotion. As Alexandra Galviz (Authentic Alex), #LinkedInLocal co-founder, says: 

It’s not just about sharing your ideas; it’s also about inspiring others into action. 

Thought – give yourself time to think, observe, and horizon scan. Don’t fill every nook and cranny of your day. 

Leadership – have a point of view and don’t say the same as everyone else. 

I disagree with David Soloman, Goldman Sachs CEO, on remote work being an ‘aberration’, but I respect his opinion, and he’s been quoted everywhere. 

Some good advice from Tammy Ammon, Director of Thought Leadership at Acxiom, after a year on the job. 

She spent the first few weeks defining the role and mapping existing pieces of content. Content creation is a huge part of it – a passion for storytelling and strategy. Move through the organisation at all levels to have a broad view and perspective to share with your audience. 

Listen in on meetings, network on LinkedIn, and have monthly chats with your team about issues, no agenda. Manage your time – know what topics need your input and what you can delegate. You can’t do it all. 

Good books: Dorie Clark’s Entrepreneurial You – insights from building a high six-figure solo consulting business, and Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: the story of success

What’s working for you? Come and share your experiences at the Fireside Chat on 12 November.

Nicci 


🖐5 things

✍️How to create a Wiki in 9 simple steps – a guide and template. Every company needs a Wiki! It helps keep communication open with remote teams. I’m building one for myself – mission, vision, values, culture, tools and processes, passwords, resources for personal development. Great for onboarding, speeds up the day-to-day and focuses your mind.

💸Mirror.xyz – a new tool for writers working on crypto and blockchain. I’ve seen a few posts about this, but not many reviews, so I got on Reddit and Medium – good articles by Tim Denning and Casey Botticello on how it differs from traditional publishing platforms, and how you can make money on it. Exciting! I’ve been trying to sign up but having issues with the website.

💌Newsletters could be the next (and only) hope to save the media. As the journalism industry collapses, writers are turning to newsletters to make money and launch publications. Premium subs are still a tiny part of the market, and writers make money in other ways. I can’t see people paying $10/mo for several newsletters – these little things add up. I subscribe to Every – a bundle of newsletters on work and productivity – like a magazine.

✈️Africa is calling! Cabo Verde has launched a nomad visa to attract 4000 remote workers over the next three years for its DN programme. Ten sunny islands to explore – they’ve had virtually no tourism since 2020. See the best of Cabo Verde on Insta here. The national drink is Grogue, a rum at 60%, which will blow your socks off.

🎧Ways to make working remotely less lonely. It’s not talked about enough, and it’s among the biggest challenges faced by remote workers. Switching off is my biggest challenge, but this is a close second. My clients are global, so there are no team events. My networking is online so I’m going to start a local remote worker group. The team at Flexiple share some creative ways to deal with it – personally, at a company level, and in your community.


Categories
Advice. Opinions. Conversation. Newsletter

The Shift: Issue #7

A Conversation on Creativity With Dannie-Lu Carr.

What tools do we need to deal with life’s challenges and work creatively in the face of adversity, so we can come out stronger at the end of it?

Dannie-Lu Carr is the founder of three signature online programmes: Flaming Leadership, Warrior Women and 28 Days of Defiance and also a Published WriterAward-Winning Theatre DirectorSinger-Songwriter and the founder of Creative Wavelengths™—a new language for creativity. Her work is described as “brilliant, not for the faint of heart… for courageous souls…” We first met 10 years ago at a women’s networking event in London, and thought she was a real dynamo with an enormous heart. 

TS: You coach on leadership and personal impact with a focus on empowering women and LGBTQ. What stories do you want to bring to light, and what was the catalyst to start your consultancy?

DLC: My work on fearless leadership and personal impact is really about giving people back their sense of self and the tools to speak articulately about their ideas and points of view. I work with people to develop and trust their judgement and dare to put themselves forward to galvanise innovation and change where it’s needed. We still live in a very hierarchical world mostly, which can unnecessarily intimidate, undermine, dominate and control. Nobody wins with this way of working.

My goal is always to create a more level playing field where ideas can be shared, and we can respect points of view. The best people to lead these changes are those who haven’t automatically been given the metaphorical floor historically and understand how it is to have a different insight about how things were in the past, hence the predominant focus on women and LGBTQ.

The catalyst to start my consultancy was about giving people the tools to deal with challenges without them having a devastating effect and also to work creatively in the face of adversity so they can weather through and come out stronger.

What’s your coaching style? What techniques do you use to help people get past their blocks and seriously step up?

My style is informal, honest, to the point. It’s the best way to cut through the nonsense noise in our heads and environments—the noise that creates a lack of confidence and procrastination. I have a ‘just do it’ approach once people have unpacked what is really going on for them and have the clarity. I use a range of techniques, but probably the edgiest is bringing my theatre training (the honesty of communication and saying what is) to the business world.

Teaching is a two-way thing. Any advice you’ve taken on board that has changed your outlook or challenged your thinking?

I always say that I endlessly learn when I teach. When I am advising and coaching others, it isn’t unusual for a voice to kick off in my head that says something like, “this advice you’re giving to Jane you need to do this with X in your own life”. The biggest thing I have learned to do is to be humble when someone points out my own shortcomings rather than get defensive. To take a ‘fair enough, I have to own that’ position is always gold. Usually, the things that fly at us as the most uncomfortable to swallow absolutely hold the most wisdom and insight for us. 

Your online programmes: 28 Days of Defiance, Warrior Women, and Flaming Leadership are described as brilliant and “not for the faint of heart, for courageous souls.” What’s your creative process, and who or what has inspired you?  

First, I listen to my clients. I’ve always got my ears pricked for their challenges, wants, etc. Then things churn around in my head for a bit and my subsequent process is that I then raggedly sit on the floor amidst a heap of pen and papers and brainstorm in an intense burst. Or several of them. That’s how I nail and fine-tune. Then I take the ideas out to the world, and it goes from there. In terms of inspiration, people inspire me all the time. I think people can be magnificent with their insights, ideas, resilience and drive. There are a tonne of women out there, past and present, who are/were incredible—Jude Kelly, Anita Roddick, Malala Yousafzai, Jacinda Ardern… I have an endless list, to be honest. When women stand up strong and in their boots, they can be so powerful. 

Someone said you have a form of ‘business magic’ in terms of how you approach problems and conflicts at work. Can you give us an example? 

In short, I listen to as much as I can before I address where the assumptions and unconscious biases might be for all parties involved. This flushes out the emotion that can give any of us humans blind spots. Then I drill into—what is the actual issue really at play here? Then last, how can this be articulated to feel you are expressing yourself fully while respecting the other person’s point of view? That’s pretty much my framework. 

You’ve written a brilliant book on assertiveness. We can swing between unassertiveness and OTT behaviour. How do we find the middle ground—i.e. getting what we want without rubbing people up the wrong way? 

This is a huge passion of mine. It’s actually very easy to find a middle ground, but we don’t have that many role models in terms of people who practice this. It is one of the major reasons that I really rate Keir Starmer. He executes the middle ground with aplomb. It’s about taking the personal emotion out of it and being in an adult position. It isn’t about point-scoring. It is about addressing the issue at hand as honestly as you can while remaining aware of your potential impact on the other person. Often, we feel like we are assertive when we are falling short. And people get confused between assertive and aggressive when they are actually very different states of being.

You’re the founder of Creative Wavelengths™ a new language for creativity. What is it, and how can it help us to raise our creative intelligence?

I have spent about five years developing Creative Wavelengths—it is nine keywords that pinpoint exactly what is happening around any creative process and/or collaboration. Creativity is often shrouded in mystery, and the surrounding language is very imprecise, which causes issues with people taking it seriously or holding the value of it and what it needs. Having a shared language that is time-efficient and gives permission for a deep and precise conversation allows us to elevate our understanding of creativity and therefore raises our overall creative intelligence and our ability to cut through the noise and access the critical insights for innovation and deep resonance. 

Any business problems you’d like help with right now or opportunities for collaboration?

I’m always open to discussions and potential collaborations. We are living in a very unpredictable world, way more than ever before, and we need smart and courageous people to come forward and tackle these issues, rather than being stuck in a place of victim and fear. I’d like my clients to recognise that coaching and consulting is the most critical thing to invest in and come away from the old mindset that it is a luxury and therefore the first thing to go. How do they expect to weather storms like this without access to understanding and adopting new ways of doing things? Rhetoric, of course. 

THE LIST  

Oh wow. I could write a book on creative inspirations… here’s a handful of some of my favourites:

BOOKS

Creativity Inc by Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace

Rebel Ideas by Matthew Syed

The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks

Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown

PODCASTS

Reasons to be Cheerful 

Woman’s Hour

The Tim Ferriss Show

The Brutal Truth

WEBSITES

Forbes

The 99 Percent

TED

Harvard Business Review

www.dannielucarr.com