So, Who Is Following?
We are all thought leaders. Every C level executive is told, “be a ‘thought leader’,” “have unique ideas that transcend your occupation,” and, “be the ‘go-to’ of your field.”
I read more LinkedIn content, blogs, and articles, and everyone DOES seem to have great ideas and thoughts and, yes, some I have taken with me. How do we make thought leadership a 3-dimensional concept and not just a buzzword and a blog? Being a thought leader has translated in to “making a lot of content.”
I realized recently that, throughout our day, we miss opportunities to BE the thought leaders people are willing to follow. Mostly, we are spending a lot of time just talking to each other about similar topics on LinkedIn. We are a bunch of “leaders” mostly talking to other “leaders” on LinkedIn, but who is following?
In a new state of consciousness of the concept of living thought leadership, I noticed in my day (while I was probably pondering how to write a blog to BE inspiring) three significant opportunities we miss to extend authentic thought leadership to the people that may benefit from it the most.
The Way I Engage with Seniors
I was thinking the other day, my grandmother, who is now in her 80s, has watched the entire world literally change before her eyes. To give you some reference, in 1940 (just 75 years ago), when the Census collected information on the plumbing in American homes, almost half lacked the trifecta of hot/cold water, a tub or shower, and a flush toilet. Now she can heat food in seconds, as she watches a high definition TV which she operates with her voice, and the shower is turned on by an app on her phone, a device that has replaced several technologies in her lifetime. It is so mind-blowing how much change she has seen. And yet, when it comes to explaining the technology, explaining proper usage, or even helping her adjust to the changes of this new technologically filled world, I consistently fail to be an example of thought leadership in the areas of the impact on human quality of life that technology affords. I do not extend patience, explanation, and enthusiasm for things and genuinely demonstrate all the ways technology can help improve her life. I do not readily recognize how difficult it must be to have so much change from such a simple childhood. I could be showing FAR better tools of my profession, have incredible power, but also require compassion when dealing with those new to them.
Conversations with My Children
I hear all the time that children do not listen to what we say; they watch what we do. While the action is essential to model strong leadership, so is a conversation. I think we share a lot of our experiences with our children, but what about our internal dialogues that are shaping us and our actions? I share what happens in my day, or my experiences, when I speak to my kids, but rarely do I discuss my real INNER thoughts. My worries and moments of self-doubt. My fears and my failures. While it is not to say that one should burden their children, there is something to be said for revealing those challenges and how we cope with them. I do not want my children in my head all the time (trust me – it is scary enough for ME to have to be there) but teaching our children how to think and overcome those thoughts in an incredible embodiment of the term “thought leadership” both literally and figuratively. Children need, more than anything, coaching on how to grow, think, and mold themselves. They are the least served in the thought leadership category – and likely the most in need of leadership beyond Instagram memes.
Real Life Interactions with Strangers
No one is looking to receive a dissertation from a stranger. I miss opportunities to educate and provide thought leadership concepts to people ALL the time in ways that would be both helpful and appropriate. Just the other night, while at a restaurant, I had a casual conversation with my waitress about her son and his struggle to balance school, work, sports, etc. It was a perfect opportunity to contribute through a discussion about the value and tricks of time management. He was an ideal candidate for one of the great time journals I had used to help both myself and countless friends better utilize and organize their time. Thought leadership is no more than just sharing what we have learned to make our own lives, work, relationships, and industries better…how could I have missed such a beautiful opportunity to make a very small impact and provide a new thought or, even worse perhaps, a really big one?
A blog or a great article is not thought leadership; it is the result of a business construct we have created to gain attention. Offering true thought leadership, in small doses, throughout our days, in organic ways is how we genuinely help influence and bring the tiny seeds of change that higher level thinking offers. I can’t wait to see who I can share a new perspective with today, but mostly, I am ready to start looking around and learn from others….and that concept, learning is everywhere, is something I learned, from a true thought leader that lived it – not a blog.