This is part II of a blog post on thought leadership and how it can be a useful career management tool.  Part I, How Becoming A Thought Leader Can Boost Your Careerwas posted last Thursday.

Thought leadership is a strategy.  Being called a thought leader is an award.

With a tip of the hat to Jay Baer, a marketing consultant, best-selling author, blogger, speaker and founder of Convince and Concert, a marketing consulting firm, the process of sharing ideas, best practices and industry developments can be an effective tool in your career management toolkit, but being a thought leader is not a title you award to yourself.  It must be earned and bestowed by others who derive the value from what you say and write.

thought leadership in career managementAll of us, whether we are seeking to promote our brand to build our business, sell books or earn speaking fees should remember this rule.  Baer says that those who try to “ignite a fire around your own work doesn’t make you a thought leader.  It makes you an arsonist.”

With that cautionary advice, I still believe that the process, when well executed, is something that helps executives elevate their profile with colleagues and recruiters.  In addition to the obvious warning about crowning yourself, there is another rule that must be followed:  Focus on your readers, listeners and viewers, providing them content that that will add value for them.  It is not and never should be about the benefits you derive but the help you provide to others.  There is a fine line between a marketing strategy to promote your personal brand and the model I am recommending.

The difference can be found in your focus and motives.  Incorporating the “helping others” theme in your actions — in your thoughts, words and deeds — is a good defense against losing sight of the ultimate objective — to make your brand one that will support your professional advancement.

In addition to your focus and motives, engaging in this process — putting yourself “out there” in the world of social media — requires thoughtfulness. If you write or blog, host a podcast, or produce video posts, you cannot just throw something together and hope it sticks.  That approach to developing ideas and providing information for your audience will hardly add value.

Here are three ideas to think about:

  1. If you are posting a breaking news story on your industry, you should check your various news feeds to see if someone else has already added the story; being a me-too poster is not particularly valuable.
  2. Avoid flash-point controversy, which is to say, avoid religion and politics.  Our recently completed election has been one of the most divisive in modern history.  People either love the President-elect or have varying degrees of dislike.  During the campaign, I posted some political analysis on my personal Facebook page, but I am being very cautious now that the campaign is over.  Hotly debated ideas, while good for the First Amendment, may not be as beneficial for your career brand.  And I recommend never posting political content on LinkedIn.
  3. If you are going to write a blog, you need to read and research the subject theme to add context and perspective to your own ideas.  “Whipping one out,” posting a blog for the sake of posting frequently probably won’t be that helpful.  Quality trumps frequency.