Thought Leadership is all about making a difference and teaching. If you wish to make a true impact in your field or even better in the world then you must understand the “why” of what you’re doing and how to engage and influence people to spark a movement. Along that path, you must also be relatable. If people can’t see the world through your experiences, they will be less inclined to follow. If your desire is to be thrust in the spotlight as a person who can create monumental shifts then I agree that it’s worthwhile to invest your energy into resources to enhance your natural thought leader abilities.
I had the pleasure to interview Kinyatta E. Gray. Kinyatta is the Creator and CEO of FlightsInStilettos. Kinyatta launched FlightsInStilettos in 2018 and it is based on her real life travel style — traveling glamorously through the airport. Kinyatta’s goal is to inspire women to put their best selves forward when traveling and to think about their individual travel style. Through Kinyatta’s website FlightsInStilettos.com she sells travel inspired accessories and apparel with a touch glam. Kinyatta also recently launched “The Traveling Tiaras” that includes travel inspired accessories and apparel for traveling little girls between the ages of 4 & 10.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
Yes, it’s my pleasure to share my backstory with you.
FlightsInStilettos was literally conceived after I took a trip with friends while traveling through the airport in stilettos. Through encouragement by a good friend, I joined a travel club and created the account name FlightsInStilettos. I was drawing from my experience of having traveled in stilettos through the airport and thinking about all of the comments I received from travelers that ranged from support and love to flat out pity. I shared my account name with my friend who immediately considered FlightsInStilettos “cute and catchy”. And after a few weeks of pondering on the account name, I too began to consider the name cute and catchy and from that moment forward I began to develop a business focused on inspiring women to travel in style.
Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority on the topic of thought leadership?
Yes, thought leadership is about creating movements that inspire and influence others to take action. This isn’t just about me; it’s about influencing action in others. FlightsInStilettos is not only a brand and business, it is a movement to compel travelers to think about their travel styles and to put their best selves forward when traveling. While this concept is not new, it has gotten lost over the last few decades and my goal is to raise the awareness again that airline travel is an event that one must show up for — dressed appropriately and perhaps even in style.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
The most interesting story is that when talking about FlightsInStilettos, women would often discuss how they couldn’t wear stilettos and that this brand isn’t for them. I had to remind people that FlightsInStilettos is based on my travel style and that my business and brand is for anyone open to thinking about their travel style and putting their best selves forward regardless of whether or not stilettos is part of your travel style. The take away was that the name “FlightsInStilettos” was scary for non-stiletto wearers. I found that to be very interesting.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest mistake I made was using iPhone quality pictures on my website to promote my products. After encouragement from a trusted mentor, I invested in professional product photos to align with the overall look and feel of my website and certainly my brand.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define what a ‘Thought Leader’ is. How is a thought leader different than a typical leader? How is a thought leader different than an influencer?
I believe that a thought leader is an expert in a particular niche and is someone relatable that sparks movements and inspires change for the benefit of others.
Thought Leader is also a title applied to you vs one you have applied to yourself. This is a key distinction between thought leaders, typical leaders and influencers.
Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming a thought leader. Why do you think it is worthwhile to invest resources and energy into this?
Thought Leadership is all about making a difference and teaching. If you wish to make a true impact in your field or even better in the world then you must understand the “why” of what you’re doing and how to engage and influence people to spark a movement. Along that path, you must also be relatable. If people can’t see the world through your experiences, they will be less inclined to follow.
If your desire is to be thrust in the spotlight as a person who can create monumental shifts then I agree that it’s worthwhile to invest your energy into resources to enhance your natural thought leader abilities.
Let’s talk about business opportunities specifically. Can you share a few examples of how thought leadership can help a business grow or create lucrative opportunities?
I believe that being transparent about how you started your business and the reasons why you started your business fosters trust. When people trust you, that trust can lead to them becoming a customer.
Constantly tell a story about your business journey that your followers can relate to through your social media pages. Don’t be afraid to share your successes and obstacles you have overcome. People love comeback stories, share them.
Be approachable and open to answering questions to help aspiring entrepreneurs take the same leap that you have.
Keep the customers needs in mind. How will your business serve the needs of your targeted consumer now and in the future? Today, you need to think about the customer 10 years from now.
Ok. Now that we have that behind us, we’d love to hear your thoughts about how to eventually become a thought leader. Can you share 5 strategies that a person should implement to become known as a thought leader in their industry. Please tell us a story or example (ideally from your own experience) for each.
- Humanize your brand. Tell realistic stories about how you developed your brand and business. Story: I absolutely love telling the story of how I launched FlightsInStilettos. It was very random. I honestly didn’t set out to be an entrepreneur, but the more I thought about how I was receiving strong and favorable reactions to my handle FlightsInStilettos, I was compelled to essentially monetize my preference — wearing stilettos through the airport and traveling in style. Business ideas are not always born in the boardroom. My idea was born walking through the airport in my favorite pumps!
- Become an expert in your niche. Story: I constantly research information related to travel style and I conduct interviews with avid travelers such as Flight Attendants and global travelers about their preferred travel style. This information is conveyed to my travelers through my travel blog on flightsinstilettos.com.
- Consistency makes your brand/business memorable. Story: I share travel style inspiration photos daily with my followers to spark interest in my brand and to also raise their awareness of how others coordinate their attire when traveling. I always share photos of customers wearing my products. One Instagram follower once told me that every time he takes a flight, he thinks about FlightsInStilettos! That’s awesome & impact!
- Surround yourself with people on the same mission as you. Story: One of my favorite sayings is; “Your vibe is your tribe”. The top 5 people that I spend the most time with are on the same mission as I am. They are all new or aspiring entreprenuers. Within this network we share resources, information, and lessons learned with each other. I find this form of support valuable and essential as an entrepreneur.
- Don’t quit. Story: I have often wondered whether or not FlightsInStilettos was a good idea and I have often experienced people laughing at the name. But I kept going because for everyone that laughed there were two people that sent me messages thanking me for inspiring them to think differently about how they were showing up at the airport and on vacations. I have witnessed customer’s experience a shift in their self esteem as they shared stories of wearing stilettos for the first time and feeling quite stylish while traveling. This is why I won’t quit.
In your opinion, who is an example of someone who has that has done a fantastic job as a thought leader? Which specific things have impressed you about that person? What lessons can we learn from this person’s approach.
Jeff Bezos, Founder & CEO of Amazon
Jeff Bezos started out with humble beginnings but possessed the vision, determination, agility and knowledge to form a billion dollar business within 10 years. The lesson to be learned here is to never give up.
I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?
The issue here is that being a thought leader is not a label that you apply to yourself, but rather a complementary label assigned to you. There are many kinds of leaders, but a thought leader stands out as one whose knowledge exceeds that of subject matter expertise and to be revered in such a manner is an honor.
What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
I would advise other leaders to pace themselves and to not feel obligated to solve all of the world’s problems. Take time out to reflect, rejuvenate and replenish yourself. A burnout leader can result in an ineffective leader.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
A movement that would bring about the most amount of good is inspiring people to have an attitude of gratitude. As rudimentary as it sounds, people don’t take the time to simply say thank you, not to people in your life in present time, but to the people in your life who have helped you along your journey. I would initiate Gratitude Day, where you send heartfelt thank you cards to people who have been instrumental in your success, whether it was a teacher, business partner, business supplier, press outlet, etc. Just say thank you.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Before You Quit, Remember Why You Started”. This is very relevant because as a new entrepreneur certain things may not move as fast as we’d like or the recognition and sales aren’t coming as fast as we’d like and that can be discouraging. For me, I always held on to the thought that if I would just continue to push through another day my breakthrough may be just around the corner. Imagine if I had given up last week, I would not be here today giving this interview. And that’s why I get energized when I think about why I started.
We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Yes, I am very fascinated with individuals who started with humble beginnings and transformed their lives in remarkable ways and have become business leaders and philanthropists. I’m particularly impressed with Jay Z. From his days as a rapper to leading board room meetings with the wealthiest Americans and closing billion-dollar deals, I’d think it was an honor to meet Jay Z and to let him know that I respect his grind and rise.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Readers can follow me on Instagram: @flightsinstilettos, and on Twitter: @Fstilettos
Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful.
Thank you very much for sharing your prestigious platform with me and for taking an interest in FlightsInStilettos.