Are you building good thought leadership habits?
If there’s one thing that successful thought leadership is built on, it’s consistency. Thought leadership requires habitual work and thinking – because it’s a marathon and not a sprint. That’s why making healthy habits that embed thought leadership in your work and day-to-day life is critical.
When we thought about some of the habits it takes to build thought leadership, the Intelligent Ink team compiled a few that we’ve found work well for us and our clients. While not all of them will be applicable to you and your work, you might be able to embed at least a couple into your own life to make thought leadership a consistent practice to increase your impact.
Dedicating time to thinking
To build the ‘thought’ in thought leadership, it’s important to give yourself time to critically think and dive deeper into the problems your industry or community is facing. That doesn’t necessarily mean time spent alone at your desk with your head in your hands thinking (although if that works for you, go for it!). It can be time spent as a team, brainstorming together and working as one. That’s what we find works best for the Intelligent Ink team. When we’re facing a particular problem, we have a group-think session in which we all combine our thoughts and expertise to tackle the problem together. They always say a problem shared is a problem halved!
Taking thought leadership to a sustainable practice involves some strategic planning. Time is a finite resource – so you have to choose and plan carefully how and what you want to dedicate yours to.
Part of being a thought leader is learning what to say no to. It’s about selecting a few key things you want to focus on, and going all in on them. It can be tough to select only a few activities when it feels like you have to be on every social media platform, be at every event, speak everywhere, email people, write a book, coach people, consult, create a course…. Phew! Remember though that you’ll get far better results doing a few things well rather than spreading yourself too thin.
This might mean focusing on one or two communication channels in particular. Whatever you are most passionate and excited about is where you want to direct your energy and time. Consider your strategy as a business, and make sure your thought leadership strategy supports this and ties everything in together.
Taking time to reflect
To develop and enrich your thinking, it’s crucial to reflect on your work. Reflecting on which ideas are working, which content is resonating with people, and what’s going on around you is the only way to improve your thinking, have a greater impact, and give greater value.
We all reflect differently, so figure out the way that works best for you. It could be journaling or capturing your musings in a notebook, it could be voice recordings while out walking, it could be a formal review process after each activity, or it could be in conversation with a trusted friend. Either way, schedule time in your calendar to reflect – and don’t skip it. We’d especially recommend doing this with your phone turned off or left somewhere else, so you can reflect undistracted and undisturbed. Ensure you capture your reflection somehow as well, so you’re able to look back and see how much you and your team have progressed and developed.
Pay attention to what’s around you
Great thought leaders don’t listen to react. They listen to learn. The key to forming great ideas is to pay attention to and engage with what’s happening around you; not just be the one saying everything!
To make your ideas as robust as possible, you need to consume a wide variety of content from a range of industries and sources. If you’re always reading, watching, and listening to the same sources, you risk putting yourself in an echo chamber. Instead, you’ll want to consume a combination of pieces that educate you, connect you with others, support your beliefs, and challenge your thinking – as well as things that bring you happiness. And while good content will be different for everyone depending on your interests and areas of expertise, it should always advance your thinking and fuel your passions (we wrote a blog on nailing your content ‘diet’ last year – give it a read here).
A thought leader engages with their community and has constructive and challenging conversations – and they do that all the time. Whether it’s connecting with people in your industry on LinkedIn, sticking around after a speaking gig to speak with attendees, or just having a coffee with a trusted confidant, great thought leaders are constantly talking with people who will push their thinking further.
The key is to schedule in the time to make it happen. We all fall victim to feeling like we don’t have enough time for meaningful conversations when there is so much to do just for day-to-day business – but it’s simply about making the time.
A common hack we use is scheduling in just 10 minutes of LinkedIn time every morning to post one thought and comment on 5 other people’s posts. This not only means you’re engaging in conversations, you’re also starting off the day with some intelligent thinking (not to mention scoring points with the LinkedIn algorithm).
Another method we like is scheduling a coffee or online meeting every two weeks (or however often works for you) with someone you admire, someone in the community whose ideas interest you, or someone who you think you can bounce ideas off of. Even better is starting to put together your sounding board – who are the people you can easily reach out to run ideas by? Who do you trust to give you honest feedback to make your ideas even richer?
Holding yourself accountable to be consistent
We all work differently, and no habits are right for everybody. The key is to experiment with which habits help you to make a consistent, proactive effort to building thought leadership. Think of what you want to achieve – what are the steps you need to take to get there? If you struggle to make and keep strong habits, there are plenty of resources out there to help. In particular, we like Atomic Habits by James Clear.
It can be tough to make time in a busy calendar to engage in deeper thinking. But from our experience, holding yourself accountable is the only way to make thought leadership a truly consistent habit – something we know helps you have a greater impact and gain a strategic advantage. So which thought leadership habits are you building?