Develop a strategy for how you will share your ideas, network with others in your niche space, and create new ideas. Ideas are great but are only as good as they spread. How will you share them with your network and a larger area of influence?
As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sandra Mohr. Sandra is known for being a change agent in higher education institutions through engaging multiple stakeholders and investing in modern learning environments for the 21st century. She has proven talent for aligning institutional strategy and objectives with established departmental paradigms to achieve maximum faculty and student success. Sandra has earned a doctorate degree in Global Educational Leadership from Lamar University, a master’s degree in Higher Educational Leadership and Administration from West Virginia University, and a master’s degree in Counseling and bachelor’s degree in Psychology from California University of PA.
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?
Great question, thank you for asking. I like many went off to college after high school and fell in love with the academic environment and felt like it could be a place where my talents and skills could be utilized to help others. College has the power to transform an individual and help them create a path for a career in which they are passionate. It has provided me an amazing opportunity to work with talented individuals and watch students turn into successful professionals. Having the opportunity to teach is really an honor because I learn so much from each class as my students often teach me so much about life and perspective, they really are the driving force behind what I do every day.
Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?
When I think of a thought leader, I think of individuals that others tend to go to for ideas, mentoring, and creative ways of working together on projects and opportunities. Individuals who see someone as a thought leader often can see their passion and drive around a specific area. In my case, passion is around creating successful careers that matter for faculty, staff, and students to help create lifelong student success. Over the years, I have had the privilege of working with amazing educators across the globe to create leaders in numerous fields of study. I have also been blessed with the chance to facilitate classes and speak at numerous events and conferences. All of these opportunities have created a vast network of other leaders that become a great resource to work through any variety of things that might come their way.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
It really is hard to pick just one opportunity to share. If I had to pick just one, I would have to say that it occurred when I was working with the Online Learning Consortium to help train people how to teach courses in the online modality. We formed a partnership with women educators in Saudi Arabia where they completed a certificate program and upon completion came to the United States for a closing institute and ceremony. The ability for women to take on better roles and positions due to online education was inspiring given the cultural norms in Saudi Arabia. Their passion and quest for knowledge was really amazing to watch transpire and then see how this training helped educate and transform their professional options.
Living in the United States, we all take many things for granted. The women who were in this program were working to change culture and make their impact in the world and this opportunity provided them a chance to follow their passions and goals.
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 leader can be found anywhere in the world. It doesn’t have to focus around title or position but more around passion and having others align in where you are hoping to go. Thought leaders take leadership one step further by having a specific expertise, passion, and record of helping to change the world in a specific area that peers recognize as a valued resource. They actively work to share their thoughts within the field and expand knowledge around their area of leadership.
Becoming an influencer through social media has become much easier with all of the tools and platforms that are now available. To be known as an influencer, people need to trust the message that is being conveyed and often times convinces or persuades the followers to buy, use, or experience something. All influencers are not thought leaders, thought leaders can be influencers if they are using their skills and background though the different social media sites.
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 matter and they have the ability to motivate and encourage others to continue moving forward the ideas that matter to you. Your question has some key items when you think about investing resources and energy into becoming a thought leader. This role does not happen overnight, it takes years of hard work and dedication to achieve this honor.
You definitely have to make the decision if this is something that you want to do and if so commit the time to making you voice heard. It can be powerful to be seen as a thought leader and develop value to those who follow your message. A thought leaders goal is to help others know and learn the things that you are known through sharing of your message.
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?
When thinking about thought leadership, what is someone known for? How do they use what they are known for to collaborate with others on innovative ideas and help turn those into reality which hopefully develop into long term sustainable practices? Developing a platform where your leadership is shared helps to create visibility and allow you to fain influence. This can lead to better positions, speaking opportunities, publishing opportunities, etc.
When people know you are good at an area and have skills and knowledge, they will seek you out for a variety of opportunities. Selecting things that make sense for both sides you and the requester are key to really have an impact and expand your reach.
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.
Below I share five strategies to become known as a thought leader.
- Figure out your niche area — we are all good at many things, strategically where are your strengths and passions to find something you want to be consistent in working at? These can grow and adapt throughout one’s career but starting with one area is key.
- Commit to lifelong learning and development in this area — you will never know everything in your area, always be on the lookout to learn more and try to find ways of furthering the field and helping others.
- Join a committee or task force in niche area — Join and take part in areas where you can share your experiences. Become a leader in any way possible at the beginning and work to figure out the path that makes sense for you.
- Connect and network with other thought leaders — with social media, it is easy to connect and follow what they are doing. Share comments and insights and offer to assist them if there is something that you can do to add value for them.
- Develop a strategy for how you will share your ideas, network with others in your niche space, and create new ideas. Ideas are great but are only as good as they spread. How will you share them with your network and a larger area of influence?
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.
One of the thought leaders I admire most is Clayton Christensen who is a Professor at the Harvard business School. I have been drawn to his work around Disruptive Innovation which has been studied within many business areas. It really helped me better understand the changing dynamics of innovation and how the world has adapted in the past. Things that have impressed me the most are his ability to capture an audience’s attention and writing style that connects with readers.
I also appreciate how he talks about how many efforts fail before they become successful. It is important to continue trying and working until something successful transpires. Another area he has shared thoughts around are best practices. We can learn from best practices but it is important to think about them from the contextual and political environments. Something that works in one area might not necessarily work to solve the same issue or problem in another.
I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?
I have never been big on titles. My advice would not be to call yourself a thought leader, if others do take great appreciation that they value your leadership qualities. I would focus on your strategic goals and priorities around your focus area and aim to do the best work possible.
What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
My advice is to truly find an area in which you are passionate and develop your niche around that area. Creating a schedule or plan around what you hope to accomplish can help keep you on track and working towards your personal goals. Watching progress occur or seeing change happen really helps to motivate and strengthen the work you are doing.
It is also essential to take good care of yourself, balance in all areas of your life is needed to become the best leader possible.
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 would really love to create a culture of ongoing learning where people are passionate about innovating and creating new things. Unfortunately, we often let some of our past learning experiences hold us back from really enjoying the process of learning and growing as a human.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite life lesson quote came from my Grandfather. He always said: Believe in yourself and where you are headed. You control the driver’s seat and if you don’t believe no one else will.
Grandpa was an amazing man and a leader in my mind. He really helped me believe that anything was possible, you just need to figure out a way to get there. The path may not always be direct, but persistence helps to stay on track and redirecting where necessary.
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. 🙂
I would love to meet Clayton Christensen. His work has really influenced and lead my career. I have shared a lot of his work in my own classes because I feel like it is so impactful.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I can be found on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.
Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful.