Many companies are increasingly viewing Thought Leadership as a way to gain a competitive edge, which adds value to their customers and increases their profile and influence in their industry. In my previous article, ‘The benefit of Thought Leadership for Companies’, I explored the benefits for companies who want to invest in this process. In this piece, I will explain how to introduce Thought Leadership to your company and the common mistakes you should avoid.
5 Common Mistakes
Companies engage in several different approaches when implementing Thought Leadership, with varying degrees of success.
Five of the most common mistakes I have seen include:
Self-proclaimed without substance.
Some companies do little more than call themselves Thought Leaders, which can have a negative effect on brand and industry influence.
Engaging researchers and writers to publish articles on behalf of an individual, normally the CEO.
Not selecting the right people.
Only choosing the most senior leaders in the company, who are not necessarily the best people to be your Thought Leaders.
Cart before the horse.
Many companies provide their potential Thought Leaders with presentation and social media training without instructing them on how to develop their ideas into valuable content.
Not providing ongoing support.
Once selected and trained, Thought Leaders need to be provided with ongoing support and opportunities from the company to share their insights.
5 Steps to Implementation
For those companies serious about implementing Thought Leadership, the 5-step process outlined below is recommended.
Identify what your company wants to be known for.
This will be a combination of your strategy, values and purpose. For larger organisations, this may be department specific. For example, many companies are looking at Thought Leadership specifically for their digital and innovations areas.
Select the appropriate people.
Once a company has identified what they want to be known for, they need to select the most appropriate people to raise the company’s profile in those areas.
In selecting people, companies should look at the individual’s current expertise in their area, their potential to speak, write and contribute on the topic, and their passion for the subject.
Invest in their development.
Once individuals have been selected, they need to be trained in how to develop and broaden their thinking.
This allows them to present their ideas at a conceptual level through models, metaphors and a context through research and stories. Undertaking this process gives them the capability and confidence to step into their Thought Leadership role.
Provide additional support and opportunities.
To maximise the initial time and financial investment in developing Thought Leaders, companies need to provide ongoing support and opportunities. For example, some Thought leaders may require additional presentation or media training.
Aim to provide opportunities that add value to employees and customers. Conduct lunch-and-learns or educational events based on a certain topic and invite relevant employees or customers to participate in these.
Repeat and replenish.
Over time, a company’s strategy will change and, through natural transition, employees will leave. It is important for companies to continually add to their pool of Thought Leaders. Implementing Thought Leadership is not a one-off intervention.
It is an ongoing process to develop your talented people, add value to your customers and be a frontrunner in the market place. Some of my clients position the Thought Leadership program as their annual flagship leadership development program for their talented and high-potential employees.
With the appropriate amount of investment and strategic implementation, Thought Leadership can have tremendous benefits for companies regardless of their size. I have worked with small companies with just eight employees as well as large corporations with more than 50,000 employees.
Through Thought Leadership, they have successfully been able to explain strategy and ideas to all employees more effectively. They have also increased sales by enhancing their profile and explaining the value they add with confidence.