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Who Needs to Be a Thought Leader? (Part 1) by Rob Brown

Rob Brown

“Leadership is action, not position.”
Donald H McGannon, former CEO of Westinghouse Broadcasting Corporation

When you ‘lead the field’ and have the reputation as the number one, ‘go to’ choice for what you do, you create a competitive edge. In my bestselling book ‘How to Build Your Reputation’ I identified 12 groups of people who can really benefit from a compelling reputation as the thought leader in their field.

In this four-part article series (see HERE for parts 2 – 4) with examples and stories, look through these and see if you fall into any. If you do, you need to begin thinking about how you can carve out that little slice of people’s minds that makes them think of you and your company before anyone else.

1. Employed professionals looking to move up the corporate ladder. This ladder is slippery and already rather crowded with your peers and colleagues. If you are in danger of being overlooked for promotion, are not making ‘partner’ as fast as you would like or would like to cut your career track to the top a little shorter, then you need to build a strong reputation. You need a thought leadership position where people come to you for what you do. Otherwise you’re just racing with the pack!

Story. Mark was an associate in a mid-tier law firm. On his current career track, he was expected to make partner in another three years. With a wife and two children, he wanted to shorten this. Through a systematic and carefully planned reputation campaign, Mark started to raise his profile inside and outside the firm. With a mixture of carefully attended and executed networking events, the choice of a good mentor, some one-to-one coaching and a series of associations with selected movers and shakers, Mark achieved his promotion 18 months early.

2. Anyone looking to make their mark and punch above their weight in a particular field. If you have moved into a new geographical area, a new department, a different business sector or a completely new career, you have a limited time to make an impact. An awareness of the key reputation building and thought-leadership tools will radically shorten this ‘teething’ time and allow you to hit the ground running.

Story. Jocelyn was offered the opportunity to move from London to New York within her international firm of surveyors. She had the triple challenge of a new geographical location, a new role and a brand new team. By adopting two key allies in the New York office ahead of her move, she began to build a reputation for great people skills, a positive attitude and a fun working environment, along with exemplary technical skills. By the time she arrived, a new team was very much on her side. Her job was more to confirm than convince!

3. People placed in positions of trust, authority, management or leadership. Any powerful position where you are given responsibility for people and outcomes will be a test for you. You will be judged by how you influence, motivate and inspire other people to contribute to the future accomplishment of a vision. If you can build a strong reputation as an authentic leader or authority in your field, you will significantly increase your chances for respect, buy-in and results.

Story. Lou Gerstner, chairman and CEO of IBM, is a little unusual. Despite most people in his industry wearing jeans and button-down shirts, he almost always appears in a dark blue suit in photographs. When he took over IBM in 1993, the company was in decline and on the verge of being broken up. Almost everyone expected him to manage the break-up, but Gerstner did not pull the trigger. His reputation in turning round American Express and managing the leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco meant that he became the first outsider to head this company giant. Although the situation looked bleak, if anyone could turn things around, it was Gerstner. With a move away from the internal focus that had got the company into trouble, his outward-directed, customer-focused ethos ignited the embers and turned the company around.

In Part 2, you’ll discover more groups that really need to leverage a thought leadership position and an irresistible reputation as the number one obvious choice.

For now, think about whether you fall into these groups. If you don’t, perhaps your friends, contacts or colleagues do. If so, how can you coach, lead and mentor them to develop their own voice and their own advocates?

Rob Brown is a motivational speaker/MC and one of the UK’s leading authorities on helping you win more business through networking and referrals. He is author of bestselling book ‘How to Build Your Reputation’ and has written over 40 publications on marketing and relationship building. To download for FREE Rob’s ‘13 Commandments for Turning Relationships Into Profits’ (Value £97) go to

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