Never call yourself a thought leader on any profiles, business cards etc! When people call themselves thought leaders, it makes me cringe. Thought leader is a designation that should be bestowed on you by your clients and the market. If you do all the right things, you will be seen as and called a thought leader by others.
As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mindy Gibbins-Klein. Mindy has authored and co-authored 9 books, including 24 Carat BOLD about which Seth Godin said, “This is the first thoughtful book I’ve seen on what it means to become a thought leader. Practical and inspiring at the same time.” Her latest book The Thoughtful Leader challenges leaders to be more thoughtful in all senses of the word. A native New Yorker, Mindy currently resides in the UK where she operates three businesses. She is Founder and CEO of REAL Thought Leaders, a thought leadership strategy consultancy, The Book Midwife®, an elite book coaching company, and Panoma Press, an independent publisher of business and personal development books. Her TEDx talk “Sometimes You Need to Change Yourself to Be Yourself” has had over half a million views, and it showcases Mindy’s passion for helping people from all under-represented groups to become leaders, and for all people to approach life more thoughtfully. Mindy has an enviable list of more than 700 published clients who have become real thought leaders and successful authors. She has been an international speaker for 25 years and has presented to and coached over 50,000 business executives and entrepreneurs in 18 countries on creating powerful content and thought leadership. Her own online and offline content has been syndicated, licensed, and showcased worldwide.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Mindy! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
I did grow up in New York, but I moved to the UK in 1991, and these days I travel back and forth each month! My passion is helping people to tell their story and share their wisdom to improve their lives, others’ lives and society as a whole. My background is half marketing, half coaching so it was only natural that I started several marketing and coaching businesses that all work together. I’m best known as founder of The Book Midwife, a brand that has helped over one thousand thought leaders to plan, write and publish their best books. When I’m not working, I enjoy travelling, theatre, films and running. I am also obsessed with Hamilton, the musical!
Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?
In 2008, I noticed the term ‘thought leadership’ being used without any context or explanation. People seemed to be called thought leaders (or not) and I couldn’t find any criteria or measurements. So I created a simply methodology and began speaking about it. In 2009, I brought out my first book on thought leadership, 24 Carat Bold, which as you mentioned, got a thumbs-up from Seth Godin, a real thought leader whom I respect immensely. 24 Carat Bold has gone global, and I have been writing and speaking about thought leadership for the past ten years.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I reached out to someone who was running a large event that I wanted to speak at. I wasn’t sure it was a great fit, and they didn’t have me on their radar I shared my idea of how we could collaborate, and it turned into a 5-year partnership! The moral of the story is ‘Always have that discussion because you never know!’
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?
When I was starting out, I was willing to work with just about anyone with a pulse! Not really, but I did have all kinds of ‘interesting’ clients before I niched the business. In one case, there was a publisher who was sending me clients for marketing, which I thought was a great collaboration. However, one of the authors was writing very gruesome horror stories and I had to gracefully decline that business. Shortly thereafter, I became much more articulate about my ideal clients and work I was willing to accept!
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?
A thought leader is an influencer, but not all influencers are thought leaders. For example, there are lots of celebrities who are influencers just because of their profile and following. Thought leaders, in my opinion, are sharing exciting, original, disruptive and even groundbreaking new ideas. In 24 Carat Bold, I suggested that people should be bold and opinionated, yet respectful. It’s all subjective, of course, so it’s the market who really decides. If the ideas resonate, the leader develops a large following and can have more impact.
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 leaders are visible and vocal. They are seen and heard, watched and listened to. People who do all the right things to be seen as thought leaders benefit from a raised profile, higher consulting and speaking fees, more opportunities and exposure. It’s definitely more effort to create your thought-leading profile but it is also worth it.
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 have many clients who have won extra business and secured speaking, media and other opportunities because they developed their brand and thought-leading content. We did a survey a number of years ago and the average extra income for the respondents (over 100 of them) was nearly $100,000. Every week, I hear about clients being invited to speak abroad, contribute to articles and journals and generally working on exciting projects that only thought leaders have access to.
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.
5 strategies (from 24 Carat Bold and The Thoughtful Leader):
- Develop your Reach. The more relevant people that know about you and what you do, the better. These days, you need over 10k followers, subscribers, connections etc to be seen as a true thought leader or influencer, but we encourage our clients to aim for 100k. You are only going to get that number of people following you if you’re saying something truly exciting and different.
- Be clever about Engagement. Find ways to bring people into the conversation. Ask questions in your posts, tag people. ALWAYS thank people individually if they take the time to comment and share. Video is more engaging, so learn how to get your best messages across clearly and succinctly.
- Become an Authority. This may sound obvious, but you need a strong thought-leading message to hang your strategy on. Work it, hone it, get help crafting it if necessary. There are so many people saying so many boring and uninteresting things that you need to work harder than ever to get heard. A strong message that really makes people stop and think is powerful.
- Creating Longevity means you won’t be forgotten. To stay in someone’s mind after you leave the conversation or leave the room, you need to leave them with something tangible. This is why a book in print is more valuable than an ebook or other digital content. People are also more impressed with physical products, and they are harder to ignore!
- Never call yourself a thought leader on any profiles, business cards etc! When people call themselves thought leaders, it makes me cringe. Thought leader is a designation that should be bestowed on you by your clients and the market. If you do all the right things, you will be seen as and called a thought leader by others.
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.
The late great Steve Jobs was, in my opinion, one of the most inspiring thought leaders of all time. Unafraid to go against the trends and even against the grain, he continually shared his vision of the world and worked to create more exciting ideas to help people. His thought leadership inspired the growth of several companies, brands, cultures and society in general. He had many people pushing back on his ideas, including people close to him, but he persevered with his vision.
I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?
I do think the term is overused and abused by some people, which lowers the value of the term and dilutes it. If everyone is a thought leader, then no one is. As I mentioned above, we need others to call us thought leaders, and the bar should really be kept high, to recognize truly exceptional, original and disruptive ideas and insights.
What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
Stick to work that excites and energizes you. I find that when I’m doing my best work, I keep going and don’t get tired. Take time out to evaluate what is working well so you can do more of that. Learn to cut your losses and adjust your systems and processes when you’re not getting the results you want. Stay open to input from others and new ideas and approaches. Push your thinking, which creates its own energy.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the largest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I have been trying in my own small way to encourage more acceptance and inclusion in our society. I do that in lots of ways, and I will never stop. I am working on ways to bring communities together, and I always aim to be open to connections and ideas from others. I have a vision but I definitely don’t have all the answers!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
About 25 years ago, I heard a speaker say ‘Only do what only you can do’. This is something I remind myself about nearly every week. If I’m doing those things that only I can do, I’m happier, more productive and less stressed. Not only that, but I get to delegate work and tasks to others who are better at those things, providing enjoyment and employment to them!
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. 🙂
That would have to be Oprah. I admire everything about her and love her philosophy on life!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
www.mindygk.com is the best place to start. That’s my main website, and my other sites and profiles are listed there. But I’ll put them here as well…
Facebook: Mindy Gibbins-Klein
LinkedIn: Mindy Gibbins-Klein
Twitter: @MindyGK and @bookmidwife and @panomapress
Instagram? @bookmidwife and @panomapress
Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful.