In Ready to be a Thought Leader? How to increase Your Influence, Impact, and Success, Denise Brosseau provides excellent guidance on how to become a thought leader. She presents a well-thought-out roadmap, breaks it down into manageable steps and shares stories of inspiring people who are models for the behavior. These stories both demonstrate that her advice works and illustrate how it works. Denise offers understandable, repeatable steps that anyone who wants to be a thought leader can follow. Each chapter explains a step in the process.
- Find Your Driving Passion
- Build Your Ripples of Influence
- Activate Your Advocates
- Put your “I” on the Line
- Codify Lessons Learned
- Put Yourself on S.H.O.U.T.
- Select Your Audience
- Hone Your Message
- Overcome Resistance
- Understand Potential Pitfalls
- Transform Individuals into a Community
- Incite (R)Evolution
Denise’s approach is elegant in its simplicity and straightforwardness. It changes what initially may seem like an impossible task into manageable steps. What may seem like an unsolveable puzzle (how to become a thought leader), becomes obvious once you see the solution. Denise does an outstanding job laying out the steps to becoming a thought leader.
While Denise’s book is full of valuable advice, for me, the following are the top nine takeaways:
1. Find your driving passion. Denise starts with a chapter on finding your driving passion. While it may seem obvious that to start here, I have known people who want to be influential but are not willing to do what it takes to become influential. If you don’t have a driving passion, then you’re probably not going to be willing to do the hard stuff, the unpleasant tasks, or rebound from setbacks. It’s almost the difference between having a job and having a calling. You may work hard at a job, but you are passionate about your calling. If you want to be a thought leader, find your driving passion first.
2. Thought leaders tell stories. Years ago, I read “Every Leader Tells a Story” and thought that it offered an exceptional insight. In the past few years, the concept that storytelling is an integral part of leadership and persuasion has become popular and almost cliche. But it doesn’t change the underlying truth: strong leaders tell good stories.
3. Develop a “what if” future. (WIF). If I had to pick to takeaway only one thing from this book, it would be concept of developing a “what if” future. It is a great way to identify your goal and inspire your passion. What if [fill in the blank]? What if your idea were adopted? This is a terrific approach to defining what you want to have happen.
4. The “Adjacent Possible”. Denise shares the idea of the “adjacent possible” which was developed by Steven Johnson in his book “Where good ideas come from”. This idea is that there are many opportunities that are adjacent our next to your current ideas and an even more that are next to the adjacent ideas and so on and so forth.
5. Done is better than perfect. Denise shares Sheryl Sandberg’s approach “Done is better than perfect”. I completely agree. About twenty years ago, I was the executive director of a nonprofit and one of my board members, Shirley Reiss, said “le mieux est l’ennemi du bien” — the best is the enemy of good. Both quotes capture the importance of getting something done and not waiting for it to be perfect.
Failure doesn’t even really exist. If something doesn’t go the way you planned it to go, and you learn from it, that’s just called learning. That’s not really failure. Failure is if you keep doing the same wrong things over and over; you’re not really making progress. Otherwise it’s just learning-and learning is good! So if your goal is to learn as much as possible as you go, instead of your goal is not to fail, then you can keep on going and going and going and going.
Leber’s idea has been condensed and popularized in the statement: I never lose…either I win or I learn.
7. The importance of resilience. Denise shares this story about how critical resilience is to success.
A few years ago, two former business school professors of mine, Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer, author of Power, and Jim Collins, author of Good to Greatt, did an informal study of my Stanford MBA classmates to discern what factors were the most influential in determining which students would “make it” and which would not. (As I recall, they were not looking for those who had made it as measured by dollars earned, but those who are most successful all around in achieving their goals and dreams.) After eliminating many different factors, they landed on resilience as the one defining skill and behavior that allowed some to stand out from the rest. After all it wasn’t that none of us face that adversity—we all did. But some were able to pick themselves up and brush themselves off and move on, while others were not.”
Resilience — perseverance — grit– are key components to success.
8. Codify Lessons learned. Denise recommends documenting what you learn. This reminds me of a post by Peter Bregman entitled “The Best Way to Use the Last Five Minutes of Your Day.” Pete recommended
Every day, before leaving the office, save a few minutes to think about what just happened. Look at your calendar and compare what actually happened — the meetings you attended, the work you got done, the conversations you had, the people with whom you interacted, even the breaks you took — with your plan for what you wanted to have happen. Then ask yourself three sets of questions:
- How did the day go? What success did I experience? What challenges did I endure?
- What did I learn today? About myself? About others? What do I plan to do — differently or the same — tomorrow?
- Who did I interact with? Anyone I need to update? Thank? Ask a question? Share feedback?
Similarly, Denise writes:
At the end of each day or each week, could you set aside fifteen minutes to write down the highlights of what happened? What were the painful moments, the funny experiences, or the most challenging decisions you made? Here are a few more questions
- What have I learned from this experience?
- What did I do well?
- What could I have done differently?
- Is there a universal less here that others could apply?
When two smart people recommend a similar approach, it is hard not to believe it is good advice.
9. “Criticism is just a really bad way of making a request.” Denise shares Diane Sawyer’s quote about negative feedback being a badly worded request. It’s a great quote and brilliant advice.
Ready to be a Thought Leader? How to increase Your Influence, Impact, and Success, by Denise Brosseau is a terrific book that lays out the path to becoming a thought leader in a way that anyone can follow. And it is full of good advice and anecdotes for everyone, regardless of whether you decide to pursue being a thought leader.