Not Getting Promoted? Become a Thought Leader

If you’re like me, you’ve been (not so) secretly following the Ellen Pao gender discrimination trial that is going on in Silicon Valley right now. For those who don’t know the facts of the case, I refer you here. I do not wish to argue the details of the trial (which have come down in large part to he-said, she-said and a lot of painful revelations about the joys of being a woman venture capitalist).

Instead, what most interests me is one of the arguments that the firm made for why Ellen did not get promoted — they claimed she did not have sufficient domain expertise and was not an established thought leader in comparison with her male colleagues.

It is easy to argue that thought leadership is subjective – and whether someone has achieved that status is hard to define. But the more interesting aspect for me is that at a major firm like this, whether or not you are an established thought leader matters directly in whether you can get promoted or not. After all, what happens in Silicon Valley is soon true around the world.

So why not get ahead of the game by building your expertise in your niche and becoming the go-to person? In an earlier blog, I suggested 3 ways to start – Curate, Amplify or Convene. Below are three more:

Guest Blog: What do people read in your industry? Is there a popular trade magazine, website, newsletter or expert’s blog that everyone subscribes to? Draft an article or two that shares your expertise and submit them as guest blogs. Everyone is looking for great content.

Podcast: Is there a popular podcast for people who work in your field? Write to the host and ask to secure a spot. If there isn’t one already, why not start your own? For great advice on how to get started, see Podcasters Paradise.

Start an Interview Series: Who are the people in your industry that you’d like to learn from? Why not start an interview series to feature and showcase those folks? Start with people you know well and draft a series of questions they can answer by email. Or schedule a Skype call and do a ‘live’ interview that you can then transcribe. Feature their ideas (with attribution) in a blog or article where you add your commentary as well as links to useful resources and a link to their website or LinkedIn page. Use this on your own blog or submit as part of a guest blog (see above). This also builds loyalty equity – as you are helping someone else build their tribe. I like to provide my interviewee a chance to sign off on the final article before it goes live to be sure I haven’t misinterpreted anything.

No matter which option you choose, use social media to showcase the outcomes.

Getting started as a thought leader doesn’t have to take a long time but consistency (something I struggle with) is critical. Establishing your reputation doesn’t happen overnight.






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