Lessons on leadership: Suzi McAlpine’s journey to thought leadership
When we talk about what makes a great thought leader, we often mention the credibility and expertise that comes from experience – because it’s no good being someone who just talks the talk. A true thought leader has lived and breathed their industry for years, and has the lived lessons to back up what they say.
Someone who has certainly practiced what she preaches is Suzi McAlpine, one of our incredible clients. Suzi was an executive leader for a division of one of the world’s leading Executive Search and HR firms. But over 10 years ago, she left the corporate world behind to set up shop as a leadership coach and consultant. It’s been quite the ride since.
Now with her award-winning blog, a New Zealand top 10 non-fiction book, and a booked-out executive leadership programme, Suzi has devoted her work life and thinking to igniting better leadership. She’s regarded as one of our country’s top leadership and burnout experts – so how has she built such a successful career with thought leadership?
Suzi has found a community of people who appreciate her thinking, because everything she shares delivers value and draws from her wealth of experience and time in the industry. As well as her clients’ experiences, Suzi too has been a leader in organisations and can use these stories to connect with her audience. Not only that, but Suzi has experienced burnout herself. When it came to writing Beyond Burnout, it was her own authentic anecdote that hooked people in – as well as her personality, charisma, and warmth that people could connect with.
The building blocks
Understanding that there’s no such thing as an “overnight” success, Suzi has been putting in consistent effort for years to pave the path for her thought leadership. It’s that consistent hard work that’s part of the reason she’s been so successful.
Before Suzi thought about writing her own book, she already had her well-established blog that she was regularly updating, as well as a fully-functioning website and a LinkedIn page where she frequently shared her thoughts. At the time too, she was travelling the country facilitating leadership workshops and coaching sessions to empower Kiwi leaders.
Still, Suzi thought back to her own experience with burnout all those years ago and knew she had to say something. It was her need to help organisations, leaders and individuals address burnout that led Suzi to approach Christina for help to edit, critique and provide wise advice when it came to writing and publishing Beyond Burnout.
Our Christina has had plenty of experience ghost-writing books for great people. But Suzi didn’t want much help in the writing department – she already had her own, distinct voice and was an accomplished writer herself. Instead, Suzi wanted help from an editor and coach – someone who could help her connect with a publisher, who could sharpen her words and be a sounding board for structure, and someone who could keep her going when she was in a writing rut. Coaching was a new experience for Christina, and was nerve-wracking initially considering Suzi is a coach herself!
This wasn’t a case of Suzi turning around one day and saying “hey, I want to write a book!”. She had been putting in the leg work for years that meant writing a book felt like the natural next step. She had everything in place to fully leverage a book and make it a powerful tool in her thought leadership arsenal – as well as all the thinking and experience to make her advice profound and powerful.
Building on momentum
Suzi released Beyond Burnout early in 2021. Immediately, it struck a chord with people. Suzi was getting messages left, right and centre saying thank you – this book contained the answers to burnout that people had been looking for! Burnout is an issue that’s gone under the radar for years. And when Suzi opened the floodgates, things grew exponentially.
Since Beyond Burnout, Suzi has gained a waitlist for every single one of her offerings. People want to be coached, have their leadership sessions facilitated, be involved in her Leader’s Map programme, or hear Suzi speak. Not to mention, Suzi’s ongoing commitment to a new article every fortnight for her blog The Leader’s Digest, to share an important leadership lesson.
It wouldn’t make sense that the woman on a mission to eliminate burnout would suffer it herself – so Suzi has spent time establishing the right mix of work to bring her fulfilment, and ensure she’s earning what she needs to meet her thought leadership goals. Suzi has empowered herself to choose the work she engages with – and given herself permission to say no to work that doesn’t light her fire. Christina continues to provide great strategic advice when it comes to Suzi’s thought leadership endeavours.
Committed to learning
When the Intelligent Ink team thinks of Suzi McAlpine, we admire her for her commitment to better thinking. Despite her successes, Suzi has never stopped learning; she’s endlessly curious. Suzi is continually reading and listening to the thoughts of other experts, and she’s never stopped reflecting on her ideas and how they can be improved. She still takes the time to research and test her work before releasing frameworks and resources, and is open to a healthy challenge from someone with an alternative perspective. It’s this openness to seeking feedback and a commitment to improvement that elevates her ideas and makes them as impactful as they are.
No one knows everything and the greatest thought leaders have humility. They are willing – and want – to be challenged, to learn from others and to constantly improve their work. It’s this, as well as her experience, warm personality, and commitment to the long-term that have helped Suzi achieve her well-deserved success.