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Author Porscha Sterling Shares The 5 Things You Should Do to Become a Thought Leader

The major benefit of being a thought leader is that you’re always one (if not more) steps ahead of everyone else. Since your mind is always working to think up the next new thing, you’re your only competition and everyone around will begin to follow you. In this way, you’ve become an expert in your […]


The major benefit of being a thought leader is that you’re always one (if not more) steps ahead of everyone else. Since your mind is always working to think up the next new thing, you’re your only competition and everyone around will begin to follow you. In this way, you’ve become an expert in your field which builds your brand, helps you gain credibility in your field and leads to the ability to gain a loyal following.


As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing national bestselling author, Porscha Sterling. Porscha Sterling is an Atlanta, GA based author, publisher, entrepreneur and influencer. She’s best known for her breakout hit novel series “Bad Boys Do It Better” and “A Real Love”. Her debut novel “3 Queens” was released in 2014. Shortly after, Porscha launched her publishing company, Royalty Publishing House, which quickly became the #1 woman-owned, independent publishing company in the nation. Her work has won numerous awards including being the 2019 Literary Honoree for the Kimmie Awards by Sheen Magazine. She just produced her first feature film for Amazon with more films on the way.


Thank you so much for doing this with us Porscha! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

I am definitely honored to have the opportunity to share my story with you. I grew up in a somewhat small college town and was raised by my grandmother and aunts. They were very particular about what they exposed me to, so I didn’t watch much TV and I spent a lot of time reading or at the library looking for something more to read. It was my favorite past time and I read everything. I would go each week and leave with 20 or more books. Before middle school, I had already read novels like Roots, Gone With the Wind, Beloved, Their Eyes Were Watching God and nearly Jane Austen’s entire catalog.

Soon after, I began writing my own book on a word processor given to me by my grandmother. I worked on it every day for years until one day, I hit a wrong button while moving too fast and accidentally erased the entire book. I was around 10 when I started and 13 when it was erased. I was mortified! All I could see was all the time I’d wasted, and I never turned on that Word Processor again.

It wasn’t until I finished graduate school that I started writing novels again. After completing my Master’s program in Chicago where I was homeless at times, pregnant with no family closer than a 14 hour drive away and giving birth there to my oldest son, I was eager to leave and begin my dream job. I landed what I thought would be my long-term career but shortly after, I realized I wasn’t happy with it. I began to write again as a way of self-therapy to take my mind to another place. That book ended up being the first that was published, titled 3 Queens.

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

I feel that I can speak on thought leadership because I strongly believe it is the reason behind the success of everything I’ve done so far and what I’ll continue to do.

When I came into the writing community, and definitely when I started my own publishing company, everyone I saw writing and publishing books like mine during that time seemed to be representing themselves and their authors in the same ways.

Because of my background in business, I was able to assess what was working, what wasn’t working or what could be done better and also come up with new ideas on things that weren’t being done but could possibly work. As I began to implement these new ideas and methods, it pushed my company, Royalty Publishing House, to a level of success very quickly, beyond what I had imagined. Now, at five-plus years in, Royalty is a multi-million-dollar publishing company with authors who sell more books than some you’d see on the New York Times Bestseller’s List.

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

I was asked to speak to a group of teenagers who had made some wrong decisions in life and were required by a judge to attend weekend seminars in order to avoid jail time. During these seminars, various business women and influencers would come and share their hardships and challenges during their personal journey towards success. I had only started my business less than a year before and I wasn’t sure as to how much of the things I’d been through would help but I agreed to do it anyways.

As I spoke about my upbringing and the different struggles I endured before deciding to write professionally and start my company, I was shocked by the fact that I had a captive audience. Afterward, many of the young women came up to me and stated that they’d read my books and loved them. They even said that they could identify with the female characters and were inspired by them. I was shocked! I didn’t realize until that point how much what I wrote and the things I did influence others. A few reached out later and asked me for advice on how they could write novels of their own.

Even now, I’ll receive messages from women, both older and younger than me, who tell me how much they look forward to my inspirational posts or how my books not only entertain them, but inspire, motivate or help them deal with tough circumstances in their lives. It’s a beautiful thing and a humbling experience because it reminds me to be careful with my influence and to always use it to spread positivity and to encourage others.

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?

This is an easy one because I try to always remember it!

When I first started my publishing company, I thought I could do it all on my own. I’m a perfectionist and I’m very particular about how I want things done but, being a creative, I live in my head and a lot of times I can’t articulate my ideas or vision as well as I wish I could. So instead of delegating tasks to others, I tried to do everything my business needed for myself: editing, promotions, marketing, book release scheduling, author mentoring, accounting, etc. I probably would have tried to make my own covers if I could have figured that out — thankfully, I never did and decided to leave that to the experts!

I was probably about halfway through editing my second book for the day while balancing writing my own novel, completing administrative tasks for my company and meeting with authors when I just felt like my head was going to explode. I tossed my laptop away, grabbed a bag of chips and binge-watched TV for the rest of the night. The next day, I made a list of everything I did and separated them into different roles for the team that I knew I needed to put in place in order to help me. My company has grown since then and as we do more, I add more members to the team.

The lesson in this is multi-layered for me. I learned that I needed to not spread myself too thin. When that happens, you actually end up being underproductive and make a lot of errors because you’re so stressed out, you can barely think. I also realized that in order to be a great leader, I had to have a great team who I could rely on to carry some tasks that I could delegate so that I could spend my time focusing on the things that I could only complete myself.

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?

When I think of a thought leader, I think of someone who is not only the ‘go-to’ person in their field but also someone who will be able to give creative, fresh and new ideas and input. A typical leader may be able to direct a group of people towards a determined goal using methods that have been tested and tried before, but a thought leader is always figuring out how to be innovative in ways that would make things better. When they meet goals and complete tasks, it’s not always in the conventional way. Unlike influencers, thought leaders are seen as experts in their field and they seek to inform as well as create, discover and innovate.

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?

The major benefit of being a thought leader is that you’re always one (if not more) steps ahead of everyone else. Since your mind is always working to think up the next new thing, you’re your only competition and everyone around will begin to follow you. In this way, you’ve become an expert in your field which builds your brand, helps you gain credibility in your field and leads to the ability to gain a loyal following.

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?

Thought leaders are problem-solvers as well as the key people to ensure that the business continues to progress. They are able to quickly nail down issues that stagnate growth and then rework a plan of something new that can be done to get the machine running again.

Thought leaders are able to connect directly with their audience in order to understand what they need and to deliver those products. That’s a necessity in business and extremely valuable.

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.

1. Research: I am the type of person who researches everything. I’m a glutton for knowledge. Before I started my publishing company, I spent so many hours of my day observing others, reading articles and trying to learn everything that I could. From there, I created my own plan based off what fit my vision, mission and goals as well as the ideas I had of other strategies that might work.

2. Branding: I spent a great amount of time strategizing about my personal brand, what I wanted it to look like, what I wanted people to think about my company and me as a publisher. I wrote down my vision, my mission, my message and I did a lot of thinking about everything that went into, even down to the brand colors — I didn’t just pick my favorite colors, I looked into what different colors mean and how they make people feel. I took everything seriously and for every decision I made, I wrote down my reason why. I wanted to make sure that everything worked together to deliver a clear and cohesive message.

3. Network: The next thing I did was build a network full of other people who were knowledgeable about my industry. I created bonds and relationships where we could bounce ideas off each other and ask each other for advice. These individuals also ended up being my core supporters whenever I tried new things.

4. Be Innovative: My vision wasn’t based on anything I’d seen other people around doing already. Although I learn from others, my goal was to come up with new ideas and disrupt the normal way of things by making my own mark. Even when I first started my publishing company, I never thought of it as any less than the Big 5 (Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster) and it helped me to not put limitations on what I thought was acceptable for me to do.

5. Inform: Rather than take everything I’ve learned, package it into a manual and place it on my website for sale, I freely give out information through blogs, mentoring other authors or when people reach out with a question. The more people are able to listen to your opinions and views and learn from you, the more they’ll see you as the ‘go-to’ source for advice.

But the key here is that you have to have results proving that you know what you’re talking about. If you are giving your opinions and advice on a topic that you cannot show a measure of success in, you won’t be able to maintain a loyal following for long.

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?

Beyoncé, of course! When it comes to being a thought leader, she’s the ultimate. What impresses me about her is that she is always trying to challenge herself by doing better than she did before. She sees her goals and she doesn’t stop until she hits them. Her work ethic is amazing.

When she decided to manage herself and she spoke of how fearful she was of being on her own, I felt that same way when I started my company. I worried if I would let the people who depended on me down. How she was able to get through her fears by rising to the occasion, keeping a strong supportive circle around her and staying focused was exactly what I tried to do as well. And it worked!

Steve Jobs was an incredible thought leader as well. He was a brilliant mind and people couldn’t wait to hear what he was planning next because it was guaranteed to be something innovative, new and useful.

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 believe that to be the case at all. There are different types of leaders and the term points to a specific kind of leader who is very necessary when it comes to business.

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

Always remember why you started! Whatever your ‘why’ is will help you to focus, it’ll be your motivation and it will be your best help when you’re thinking about giving up.

Self-care is also very important. Many leaders can’t help but to want to work all the time, especially if you love your business or you’re trying to ensure it grows. However, if you don’t take the time to care for yourself properly, you will lose in the end.

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 am very passionate about people learning to love and understand themselves. As women, we are naturally very critical of everything that we do and, in many cases, we underestimate our influence and abilities.

As a Black woman, this rings incredibly true but I think a lot of this is shaped by things that we do or don’t learn about ourselves when we are young. We have to teach our children about themselves, their history and instill confidence in them at an early age so that they will grow into adults who feel they are competent and capable to achieve anything.

For this reason, I am currently working on a non-profit organization, which I will announce soon (I hope!), that will work specifically in this area — to teach young boys and girls how to find and develop their strengths, love themselves for their differences and understand that they have a purpose in life.

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

“Always stay true to yourself and never let what somebody else says distract you from your goals.”

That quote is from Michelle Obama and I love it so much because it’s so encouraging to me. When you are a thought leader, daring to come up with new methods and new ways of doing business, there are always people around who will tell you what won’t work simply because they haven’t seen it before and they’re unfamiliar with it. It’s important to stay focused, listen to advice, but also make educated decisions based on how you feel in your spirit regarding your own abilities.

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. 🙂

There are so many people who I would love the opportunity to have a sit-down chat with. The first person who immediately comes to mind is Beyoncé because I absolutely love her! Besides being an amazing entertainer, she’s an intelligent businesswoman who has broken through many barriers. I would love to learn from her. In so many ways, I’ve already learned so much about how I conduct business from her already.

I also love Issa Rae. She’s amazing.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can find me on Facebook under Porscha Sterling, @porscha_sterling on Instagram and @porschasterling on Twitter. My website is www.porschasterling.com

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

Thank you so much for having me. I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to speak on this topic.

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