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5 Things You Should Do To Become a Thought Leader In Your Industry, With Kris Lindahl

It all comes down to relationships. If you take a thought-leadership approach to your business, it leads to better strategic partnerships, better hiring decisions and better customer relationships. At Kris Lindahl Real Estate, it has led to hiring agents who are incredibly self-motivated and competitive, but also team players who work hard to build each […]


It all comes down to relationships. If you take a thought-leadership approach to your business, it leads to better strategic partnerships, better hiring decisions and better customer relationships. At Kris Lindahl Real Estate, it has led to hiring agents who are incredibly self-motivated and competitive, but also team players who work hard to build each other up. Nothing fuels growth like having the right people in the right roles, supported by a positive culture. When you have that, you start to build a buzz in the industry, and strategic partners start knocking on your door. We recently started an exclusive relationship with Zillow Offers. They could have partnered with any other company in Minnesota, but they saw the thought leadership we’ve shown in marketing, branding and operations, and they chose us.


As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kris Lindahl. Kris is the CEO of Kris Lindahl Real Estate. He’s passionate about innovating the real estate industry. Kris regularly speaks at real estate and business development events across the country. Kris is also a bestselling author, a generous and disruptive philanthropist and the founder of a podcast on modern leadership, corporate culture and community involvement which allows him to collaborate with some of the brightest leaders in business. Kris has an education background and passion for teaching and sharing.


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?

It’s a pretty simple Midwestern story. I was born and raised in the Minneapolis, Minnesota area. I went to Fridley High School, then went on to graduate from Minnesota State Mankato (now famous for being the alma mater of Minnesota Vikings receiver Adam Thielen) with a degree in education. I never thought about getting into real estate until a friend suggested that I get my license, and I was immediately hooked. The recession was full-blown back then, so I started in short sales and soon became the №1 short sale agent in Minnesota. Then, I moved into the world of big brokerages, where my goal was to pioneer a team approach. Pretty quickly, I had the №1 team in the state and one of the best in the country. In the spring of 2018, I decided it was time to launch my own independent brokerage, and that’s when Kris Lindahl Real Estate was born.

Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?

“Thought leadership” can sound like a big and pretentious term, but I have a pretty down-to-earth definition of it. I think you’re a thought leader if you naturally think bigger than whatever industry or community you’re a part of, and you work hard to share that vision with as many people as possible. For me, that’s always been the case. I’m passionate about real estate because, for most people, a home is by far the biggest investment they’ll ever make. I’m driven to make sure they’re treated well, get the most for their investment and have a great experience in the process. But, along the way, I’ve always thought bigger — especially when it comes to three areas: marketing, leadership and generosity.

My approach to traditional, digital and social marketing is very “outside the box” for a real estate agent or brokerage in terms of the investment I put into it and the efforts I’ve made to build a strong personal brand. My podcast (“Behind the Billboard”) is really about my fascination with how leadership is changing across every organization and industry. I’ve started a whole separate movement called #BeGenerous, based on my company’s core value. To me, being generous is what it’s really all about. I want to leave the campground better than when I found it, and nothing is more rewarding than seeing how others feel when they’re on the receiving end of your kindness and generosity. Without that, nothing else matters.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Several years ago, I was at a leadership conference in Southern California. My real estate team was hugely successful at the time, but I had my share of challenges along the way. I assumed that everything I had experienced was 100% unique to me and that everybody else at the conference was somehow immune from problems. I think a lot of people are critical of themselves in this way. You assume that you’re flawed while they’re superhuman.

Soon, I found myself in a breakout group with about 20 other leaders from around the country — successful lawyers, financial advisors, tech entrepreneurs, you name it. They all looked wealthy and confident to me. But as we introduced ourselves and shared our stories, a funny thing happened: I realized that they all shared my challenges and insecurities. I’ll never forget the realization that I wasn’t alone and how good it felt to be vulnerable and realize that everything was going to be okay.

That experience taught me that good leadership isn’t about hiding your problems. It’s the exact opposite: It’s about getting your baggage out in the open and asking for help. Leadership isn’t about being invulnerable. Brene Brown is right: Vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness.

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?

Like a lot of real estate agents, I could tell you many embarrassing stories about going to the wrong address or even the wrong city. But, if we’re talking about mistakes that have led to real lessons, it’s more about the hiring process. I’m a positive person by nature, and I tend to see the best in people and make decisions on gut instinct. Sometimes that works, but other times it can be a huge mistake. For years, I hired people without doing real assessments and sometimes I got burned when they didn’t have the self-motivation I assumed or they wound up being a toxic personality in the office.

I’ve learned to assess people more scientifically. In addition to the “gut” feeling — which is still important — we also do personality assessments. We look at our company culture and core value fit. And, I make sure that I’m not the only one talking to the candidate. It’s a multi-step process now, and it’s been far more successful. I would encourage any entrepreneur to swallow their pride in the hiring process. Even if you have great judgment 90% of the time, you’re still going to make mistakes if you don’t add checks and balances.

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’ll be honest, I’m still a little uncomfortable with those terms. You have to get a license and do continuing education to be a Realtor®. You can be an “influencer” or “thought leader” just by saying you are. Here’s how I define them.

A thought leader is someone who naturally thinks bigger than their organization or industry and works hard to share that knowledge instead of keeping it to themselves. Steve Jobs is probably the easiest example because he wasn’t just a computer guy. He had much bigger ideas about the role of technology in fueling creativity and about “usability.” Every industry he touched, including movies, music and retail, he completely rethought and changed for the better.

A typical leader thinks about profits, shareholder value and getting from point A to point B. A thought leader has a much more human approach. They always reject the status quo. They hate doing things the way they’ve always been done. Real estate is the perfect example, because some people still think that in the age of Apple, Amazon and Zillow the best way to sell a home is to stick a sign in the yard and have a bunch of open houses. That’s crazy to me. Thought leaders also think about implications. What are we really doing? How does it affect people? How can we use our company, our industry, our approach or our culture to help other people? Thought leaders sincerely try to move the ball forward.

I would say that all thought leaders are influencers, but not all influencers are thought leaders. You can have 5 million followers on Instagram who hang on your every move, and maybe if you wear a funky hat, they’ll all go out and buy it. That’s a powerful influence, but is there any “thought” behind it? Does it have any wider implications? Is it making the world a better place?

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?

I don’t think most people wake up one day and say, “I want to be a thought leader.” It’s more of an organic process. Like sincerity, you can’t force it; it has to come from the heart. The benefit of taking a thought-leader approach to business and life, they both become more fulfilling. If I wake up every morning thinking only about how many homes we’re going to sell today, that’s great, but it’s a quick fix. If you only set your sites there, you’re going to wind up chasing something you’re never going to catch. Eventually, you’ll find it harder and harder to get out of bed. You’ll feel exhausted and burned out.

I used to be that way, so I’m speaking from experience. I used to be a sales maniac, but then I learned how hollow it was. To me, a thought-leader mindset points to real purpose in life. It’s not just “what am I doing?” It’s, “why am I doing it?” and “how can I truly help other people?” I still want to crush it in my business, believe me. But just the other day, I joined a bunch of people on my team and built a Habitat for Humanity House. Seeing the appreciation from the people on the other side of that effort was absolutely priceless.

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?

It all comes down to relationships. If you take a thought-leadership approach to your business, it leads to better strategic partnerships, better hiring decisions and better customer relationships. At Kris Lindahl Real Estate, it has led to hiring agents who are incredibly self-motivated and competitive, but also team players who work hard to build each other up.

Nothing fuels growth like having the right people in the right roles, supported by a positive culture. When you have that, you start to build a buzz in the industry, and strategic partners start knocking on your door. We recently started an exclusive relationship with Zillow Offers. They could have partnered with any other company in Minnesota, but they saw the thought leadership we’ve shown in marketing, branding and operations, and they chose us.

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.

· Use video. I did this early on in my career when no other agents were effectively using it. Some of those early videos are kind of hard to watch today because I wasn’t comfortable in front of the camera yet, but they still worked. We’re in the most visual age in human history. If you think you can be a thought leader without speaking into a camera lens, whether it’s a TV camera or on your phone, you’re kidding yourself.

· Be smart about social media. We have almost 40,000 followers on Facebook. That’s way more than any other agent or brokerage in Minnesota, and we’ve earned them. There’s no gimmick to social media. You have to post engaging content. In our case, that’s a mix of “coming soon” home listings, showing the work we’re doing in the community, promoting the free seminars I give and showing canoe outings and other culture pieces that communicate, “That looks like a great place to work.” In addition to that, I have a personal page that echos the business stuff, but with less focus on the business and more on generosity and family life.

· Take advantage of speaking and educational opportunities. Maybe it’s because my background is in education, but I just love to teach. I wrote a book in 2017 called Sold!, and I’m currently finishing up another one on leadership. I give as many free seminars and workshops as I can to help agents stay on top of trends and help average consumers get more on their home sales. If you want to be a thought leader, you can’t be “proprietary” about your thoughts. You have to give them away. It’s the right thing to do and it helps you learn more.

· Constantly improve and invest in yourself and your team. This is a big one for me. As much as I love to teach, I think it’s even more important to be a student. The problem many thought leaders run into is that their ideas get stale and don’t evolve. I probably attend three seminars or workshops for every one that I give, and I invest in allowing my team to do the same thing. If you want to be a thought leader, you should never be content with what you know today.

· Maintain a “bottom-up” mindset. Think about the leaders you most respect in your own life and it’s usually people who’ve never forgotten where they came from. Athletes respect coaches who played the sport themselves. Everybody loves the former grunt who goes on to great things but never loses their blue-collar mentality. I think that’s a great advantage for me. Everybody at Kris Lindahl Real Estate knows that at some point in my career, I’ve done their job. So, I understand their challenges personally, and when I expect something from them, it’s no different from what I used to expect from myself. It’s too easy for thought leaders to lock themselves in the ivory tower. You have to stay grounded and empathize with the people you lead.

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.

There are so many names to throw out there, but I’ll give you one that’s a little off the beaten path: Brendon Burchard. For people who don’t know Brendon, he’s a high-performance coach, a best-selling author and a high-demand thought leader on motivation and performance. If you go to his website, you’ll be blown away at the accolades.

I could probably write a book on everything I’ve learned from Brendon, but if I could boil it down to one thing, it’s this: It’s not the talent, it’s the execution. We live in a talent-obsessed culture, and we forget that talent and ideas are nothing if you don’t execute. More than any other thought leader, I think Brendon has cracked the code on how to make sure that you follow through on your goals. And he’s done an amazing job of creating a community around him.

I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?

I don’t know if it’s trite or should be avoided, but I do think think there is a lack of definition around the term, and that can be a problem. Since I was just talking about Brendon Burchard, it’s important to recognize that a “thought leader” should also be a “do leader.” Thoughts are worthless without execution.

What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

First, know your bigger purpose so you don’t wind up chasing a superficial definition of “success” that you’ll never catch. Second, make sure that you’re always working to improve yourself instead of getting stuck in your ways and assuming the knowledge you have today will still be relevant tomorrow. Third, build a trustworthy team around you and be willing to delegate and let others lead instead of falling into the trap of doing everything yourself. And finally, take time for gratitude. If you don’t appreciate where you’re at today, you’ll never be happy with your success tomorrow.

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. 🙂

I’m already working on this 🙂 When I developed our company’s core values, I quickly learned the one that resonated the most with me and my team was “Be Generous.” Now, I’m building that into a larger movement. The “a-ha” moment for me was when I had #BeGenerous shirts made. When you put on that shirt, it’s hard not to be nice. You find yourself wanting to be kind to live up to that motto. It’s about a lot more than a shirt, of course. In an age where people can be so cruel to each other — especially anonymously online — I think we need a resurgence of kindness in the world. We need a renewed sense of “hey, we’re all in this together.” I think people are hungering for more meaning in their lives, and that starts with donating our Time, Talents and Treasures to others. Being generous gets you outside your own head and self-interest. I want to create a movement that reminds us of that every day.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

There are so many to choose from, but I’ll share something that my friend Cesar Castillejos said on my podcast:

“Leadership isn’t about climbing the ladder of success so that people will listen to you. It’s about creating a culture of influence and gaining trust through relationships. It’s saying, ‘I best grow when we all grow together.’”

This quote gets at the idea that with real leadership, you need to get rid of ego. I’ve mentioned this in other answers, but I’ve seen it so many times with myself and with highly driven colleagues of mine: You can’t get caught up in chasing something you’re never going to catch. We still have this outdated image of leaders as these invulnerable individuals up on a pedestal, and it’s a total lie. It’s not about climbing a ladder; it’s about building a community. It’s not top-down; it’s bottom-up. It’s not about succeeding at the expense of others; it’s about relationships and a rising tide lifting all boats.

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 a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

If Gary Vaynerchuk reads this interview and wants to have a beer with me wearing a Be Generous hat or shirt, I’d definitely be up for that!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I have personal (Kris Lindahl) and business pages (@krislindahlrealestate) on Facebook that are easy to find. @krislindahlre on Instagram. @krislindahl on Twitter. Pinterest pinterest.com/krislindahlre. LinkedIn linkedin.com/in/krislindahl.

Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful.

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