Thought leadership: how to share your best ideas and boost your career

A consultant client of mine, Susie, was a brilliant leader whose career had stalled. As a teenager she was the entrepreneurial, save-the-planet one who set up litter picking groups and raised money for the RSPCA.

What is Strength Based LeadershipBut in the corporate world, she’d struggled to fully find her voice and she lost momentum as a result. Perhaps you resonate?

She came to me with this question about two years ago: I think I have the capacity to be a good role model, a mentor, a thought leader. I’d like to use my knowledge to help people – and I think it could help my career too – but what can I say?

These days more professionals are doing TED talks and building their profile by publishing thought pieces. There are plenty of opportunities to gain a bigger profile; internally and exernally; and in doing so you benefit others and boost your career.

In fact, that’s exactly what many of WATC’s Rising Stars are doing.

If you want to stand out, you need to develop and communicate your thought leadership.

Here’s how:

  1. Find where your passions connect with your work

We’re most powerful when we’re charged with purpose and living by our values. If you want to stand out, start noticing things you feel strongly about in the workplace. Spot a problem you feel passionate about fixing and take it on as your responsibility to find a solution. Don’t wait for permission.

  1. Speak, share, listen, learn

When you’ve found a passion, start communicating about it. Start small – with a colleague or at a meeting. Look for allies who feel the same. Ask them what’s being done to fix the problem. Ask them to help and support you.

  1. Develop your language

Now start to develop your passion into an approach, or thought leadership that you can communicate about. Develop language that is your own, that highlights either the approach you are taking, or the way you’d like things to change; e.g. Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Lean In’ or Helen Afford and Sarah Ellis’s ‘Squiggly Careers’.

  1. Share your ideas publically. Now.

Now you’re ready to share your ideas in a public format. It’s important to do this now – before you feel ready. Like with learning a language, you’ll only get better at communicating your ideas if you speak them out. And you’ll only see the benefits of becoming more visible if you dare to be seen. Find a place to write, video yourself or speak and get your voice heard.

  1. Get feedback, refine, and keep going

Once you’ve shared publically, get feedback, get support and keep on trying. Surround yourself with other leaders who are on the same journey.

Since going through this process two years ago, Susie has seen some big changes in her career. As she dared to be more visible and more vocal, she found herself attracting higher profile client assignments. She’s delivered a headline talk at her company conference and a selection of external groups. She’s won a leadership award within her company and she’s recently been promoted – one of the first women in her division to reach such a senior position.

Susie has become an active mentor and role model for other women in her company. And her advice?

“It all started when I dared to become visible – I didn’t think I had anything worth saying, but it turns out that I had plenty to share that others resonate with. Don’t wait until you have a perfect idea or story to share, start before you’re ready.”

About Sarah Lloyd-Hughes

The UK’s leading leadership communications expert & best-selling author. Sarah Lloyd-Hughes is a multiple-award winning public speaking coach, founder of Ginger Training & Coaching and author of “How to be Brilliant at Public Speaking” (Pearson).

Sarah’s particular passion is helping senior female leaders to become visionary communicators, capable of rallying change. If you’re interested in this work, she invites you to get in touch via www.gingerpublicspeaking.com, or https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarahlloydhughes/

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