Last week I attended a panel discussion at Barclay’s in New York City on the topic of How to Be a Thought Leader. The panel included Nicki Gilmour, CEO of The Glass Hammer, Carol Hymowitz, Editorial Director of Forbes Woman, and Barbara Jones, of Editorial Director of Hyperion Books. The discussion focused on professional women and thought leadership.
According to Wikipedia,
The panel was in agreement that in order to be a thought leader, it’s not enough to be creative and innovative. One must also have the ability and confidence to promote their ideas.
Part of the discussion addressed how women are not really good at speaking up and promoting their ideas; how we often take the back seat to men in the workplace. What is the best way to communicate your ideas so that others will be inspired and motivated to support you?
I don’t know why it always surprises me that the majority of these discussions about women and leadership end up focusing on women and self promotion and self confidence. I was sitting in the audience nodding my head. Self confidence and self promotion are necessary ingredients for women’s leadership and career success. I can’t stress it enough. And though my readers are probably tired of reading this, you can have the best ideas and the best business concept, and if you don’t have the confidence to promote your ideas and the skill to communicate effectively, you will not become the thought leader you desire to be. Thought leadership requires both components; the thought and leadership skills. Leadership implies that you have the ability to get your message across to others to both inspire and motivate action on their part.
Of course, the discussion last week also touched on the “double bind” concept that as women we need to be mindful of the way we promote ourselves; men can get away with outright bragging and we can’t. The double bind is widely accepted as part of our current culture. Women need to recognize that there is an art to creating the credibility and visibility you need to be a thought leader without sabotaging your efforts.
First, clarify your thoughts and ideas.
Second, create a compelling and passionate message.
Third, be strategic. Identify the web of influence in your internal and external networks who need to hear your message.
Fourth, develop a communication/action plan to consistently be visible to these stakeholders to communicate your message.
Fifth, follow the action plan and modify as necessary.
Use the energy and passion you have for your ideas to propel you into action. Once you are motivated to action, as a thought leader you need to communicate your message to inspire and motivate others to action.