Personal Branding

thought leadership2We hear lots of talk about “thought leadership,” and it’s for good reason—it’s real. It matters. And it can lead to great things.

Some may try to deny this reality, but when we dig to the core of each of us—be it on an individual or business level—we all want to be viewed as a thought-leader in some way, shape, or form. Heck, I know I do.

But as with anything else in life, these two words don’t just happen on their own. They are a choice. And they usually don’t occur as quickly as each of us would like.

Mark Schaefer

This subject is on my mind as I sit here in an airport at 12am and catch up on a few of my favorite writers in the digital realm. One that has my attention on this evening is Mark Schaefer of Grow. I’ve been a fan of Mark’s for a long time. His writer’s voice is incredibly real, personal, and moving. And when I say moving, I mean that he forces me, with almost everything he writes, to agree or disagree with him.

Content Mill

Because of his willingness to tackle tough subjects all the time, Mark Schaefer has developed a brand as a clear thought leader in his field.

This is because Mark doesn’t live in the world of grey. He takes a stand on matters (like his abhorrence for all things SEO) and logically explains his point. At the same time though, Mark is not a “blogger that cried wolf.”

In other words, he doesn’t just say things to get false attention (i.e. “rabble rouser”). Nor does he use words carelessly.

By doing this, Mark is the classic example of a thought leader with a style that’s built to last, which is also why, if you look at his personal brand and blog growth over the past few years, it’s truly an exceptional rise.

I mention these things because Mark understands, as many others also do, that thought leadership is NOT for the weak and weary. In the digital world in which we all now live, many folks (and businesses)that attain some level of thought leadership through great content, at the first sign of trouble (be it discord, disagreement, etc. with said content) run the other way as fast as they can—ultimately dumbing-down their unique thoughts, style, and actions.

It’s the classic case of, “Many are called but few are chosen.”

Some Will Love You. Some Will Hate You.

Anytime we’re perceived as different we’re going to naturally draw positive and negative comments and feelings from others.

Anytime we take a stand on a particular subject the same will occur.

Marcus Sheridan Speaking

What emotions can you see in this photo?

This is exactly why I love the photo above. Why? Not because I’m fascinated with looking at myself, but rather the expressions on the faces of the audiences members. If you look at each, you’ll see what appears to be a mix of emotions these attendees are having. Some look completely enthralled, others are on the fence, and others seem more cautious in their acceptance of what’s being heard.

Yes, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Not too long ago I gave a TED talk. After I was done, a gentleman came up to me said the following:

“I think you’re potentially very good Marcus, but your passion and energy levels need to be toned down a bit in my opinion.”

Upon hearing this, I chuckled loudly (albeit in my own head), as I’d just given the most “subdued” talk of my life. Had this man heard me in a “normal” presentation he likely would have left the room early due to sensory overload.

As I’ve mentioned in the past on this blog, I go into every talk and presentation I give knowing that 5-10% of the audience is going to in some way dislike me, my message, or my style—making  such statements as:

“He’s too enthusiastic.”

“He invades my space.”

“He makes me uncomfortable.”

And do you know what? I’m quite happy with that number. In fact, I embrace it, because it also allows for the other side of the coin—a huge portion of people LOVE my style, which explains why my speaking schedule for the rest of this year and much of next year is already full.

Simply put, if I listened to all those people over the past couple of years that have told me they didn’t like my speaking style I never would have gained so much traction, reputation, and success doing something I love.

The “Bad Fit”

The majority of all “cultural” problems within organizations comes down to the fact that they, despite often times knowing better, hire employees that are a bad fit.

The majority of customers that give good companies problems could have been prevented had said company trusted their gut and not done business with that person in the first place—thus recognizing they were a bad fit.

And for me, on a personal level, all of my speaking (and writing) success derives from this willingness to let go of the “bad fit” before I even step on stage, literally “releasing” said person(s) before the feedback forms ever even hit my inbox.

I really can’t stress this idea of knowing, identifying, and then releasing the “bad fits” from your business model. They will make or break you, that is for sure, and this is also the essence of thought leadership in a cluttered digital world.

So to close, I’d ask the following:

  • How attached are you to those people which are a bad fit to you and your business?
  • Are you willing to let them go so as to allow your true voice to heard?
  • And are you allowing your unique opinions and talents to shine so as to be viewed as a thought leader in your realm?

Your Turn

As always, I’d invite you to leave your thoughts below and if you’d like to share your story of becoming a thought-leader, I’m all ears…

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