Have a TRUE PASSION. You want to develop a real emotional connection to your purpose. Peoples’ intentions, genuine or not, are often visible to others. People can sense ‘the vibe”. I couldn’t tell you how many times my new clients would say to me: “I don’t know what is about you, I just met you, but I feel like I can trust you. Your energy is infectious and you are so passionate when you talk about your work.” — that’s a huge compliment! See, I don’t need to even focus on selling strategies, when I talk from my heart I focus on serving others.
As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ela Staniak Leaupepe.
Ela Staniak Leaupepe is a Founder of Feminine Leaders, Speaker and Diversity and Inclusion Advocate. Ela helps female CEOs, Executives & Business owners to create High-Calibre Performance & Confidence Through The 7-Step Self-Leadership System. Feminine Leaders ranked top 8 Women’s Leadership businesses in NSW & ACT in Australia.
Ela is leading the way globally in developing people vertically (consciousness) and horizontally (skills and capabilities) combining over a decade of coaching experience and studies in behavioural science, motivation, physiology, intuition and business growth.
Ela inspires Self-Leadership — the highest form of valuing and honouring self through taking responsibility, having discipline and emotional intelligence — all to achieve unprecedented results professionally and personally.
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?
My humble beginning began in Poland, where I was born. Growing up in a Polish industrial suburb had its challenges. Losing my father to alcohol addiction and my mother to heart problems and obesity before turning 15 set out to be a huge lesson in life for me. I learned that long term disempowerment has tremendous effect on our health, career and relationships, and unfortunately some of us pay the highest price for undervaluing ourselves. I also learned that disempowerment is a state of mind, and it is not a final destination.
I moved to Australia at the age of 21. I studied Fitness, Sports Coaching, Wellness Coaching, Neurolinguistics Programming, Hypnotherapy, Intuitive coaching and more. I explored various areas of motivation and behavioural psychology. I have worked with high-end business mentors and accomplished countless professional development programs. I worked first in hospitality, then fitness & wellness industry, I ran a few coaching businesses before diving into Leadership & Performance.
After experiencing poor leadership and discrimination in various workplaces in three different countries I worked in, Poland, Ireland and Australia I know how much damage lack of empathetic leadership, lack of inclusion and lack of equality can create in any business and that affects the most important asset of any organization — its people.
After my last employment ended I decided to create my own business, now called Feminine Leaders — a modern Leadership & Performance enterprise. We emphasize inspiring women to take responsibility for the trajectory of their life, in business and personally. We believe in educating people, men and women, on the importance of consciousness and personality development across our society to achieve self-mastery.
Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?
As you ask this question there are thousands of ideas bombarding my mind right now of how I could answer it. I am going to cut through all the superficial clutter which is already ‘out there’ as thought leadership became a new buzzword on social media.
I am going to steal your question and ask my clients about Feminine Leaders and thought leadership. This will give me an interesting feedback. In the meantime..
I believe I was able to create a brand which gained global reach for two reasons:
1 . I enjoy discussing uncomfortable topics, the real issues, with no filter.
Poor Leadership, Lack of Performance, Discrimination, Toxic Behaviors — now I am getting warmed up!
Have you ever heard the phrase “Don’t sweat the small stuff”? I really don’t. I have no interests in participating in lower consciousness conversations or interactions like gossiping, small talk, complaining or any other form of undervaluing others. If I did, I would be directly undervaluing myself.
I love thought-provoking conversations and philosophy. What really excites me is the limitlessness in solution-based thinking. I enjoy asking questions about the depth of emotion. The truthful reason beyond the obvious. Tell me how this really hurts your heart. Now, we have a good starting point.
2 . People resonate with authenticity
I believe that one of my superpowers is connection. I have a genuine interest in getting to know people, their story, their experiences and based on that mapping out their perception of reality so I can help them accelerate their journey towards outstanding results. Every single and each of us ads meanings to every event in our life. What this means is that your current reality is nothing else but a cluster of meanings and assumptions which you created based on your unconscious beliefs.
That’s why you can have ten different people observing the same situation and each of those people will have a different understanding of what they saw.
You can only achieve extraordinary results in business, health and relationships when you understand your reality and your default behaviors.
People can sense whether someone else is truly invested in them or only half serious.
Every day I share my stories of overcoming adversity only to inspire others to step up and take action away from disempowerment and towards their power.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I will remember 2020 forever. I became a mom for the first time. My son was born days before Covid lockdown in Sydney at the same time as my long distance coaching business began growing to a global reach. Many people ask me “How do you do it Ela, how do you juggle motherhood and business”? My answer is , most of the time I really don’t know (jokes!) I just juggle. I try to flow in between tasks as a mom and as a business owner. Some days are really challenging, and sometimes I feel like a superhero. I became an expert of asking for help, planning and organizing my schedule as much as possible, however all parents out there know that the unpredictability of parenthood sometimes wins over preparation. I let go of perfection long time ago, and I just do my best. Guilt free!
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?
Imagine this. You are attending a dance-fit class at your local fitness studio. Half way through the class suddenly the instructor swings her leg really high up in the air and begins moving irrationally, swinging her arms around weirdly. Everyone in the room is following her original and tempo-less dance moves until the instructor falls of the stage! At this point everyone realizes that the initial leg swing wasn’t a part of her choreography, and what the instructor was trying to do before she fell off stage was to regain her balance after uncoordinated leg swing. That instructor was me…
I will never forget the image of people in this class swinging their arms and legs as they were unaware I couldn’t regain my balance for at least 5 seconds. I still laugh every time I remember this in slow motion. I have great memories of working in fitness industry when I first came to Australia.
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 individual who is extremely passionate about their field of expertise, with an incredible ability to challenge status quo, to shake up or to go against usual standards in their industry to achieve unprecedented results. A person who is courageous in action, not afraid of failure, open minded, outspoken, loves a challenging discussion, natural at thought provoking conversations, kindhearted and driven by a higher purpose which serves our society globally. I say kindhearted because thought leadership in wrong hands can become a very dangerous weapon.
I must admit I don’t particularly enjoy this term “ a typical leader”. Leadership is extremely complex and I wouldn’t want to undervalue the gravity of responsibility which leaders carry everyday on their shoulders. The reality is that leaders are a minority comparing to the remaining 97% of society.
At the same time I understand the question. Not every leader is a thought leader. Not every thought leader is an influencer, however an influencer can be a thought leader.
The size of our network on social media doesn’t correlate with the value we provide for society, although we often value one’s worth by the size of their “audience”. Our beautiful world can be vain at times. Business-savvy influencers monetize their networks smartly sometimes without saying more than a few sentences at the time.
Some of the greatest minds in human history were rejected by society at first, just to be acknowledged for their contribution later on, or even after their death. We are forever surprising species, aren’t we?
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?
Great, let’s get started! If you haven’t started investing into the development of your mind yet, get started asap! You need to expand your thinking in order to tap onto your genius zone and to discover your true passion and purpose. Your extreme greatness is on the other side of this thick wall called “conditioning”.
You are a product of your environment. Your thoughts, beliefs, feelings are all simply entities created based on the information you were given as a child. In order to be a thought leader, you need to be able to question everything comfortably.
These are some of the greatest benefits of becoming a thought leader:
- You get to express your mind freely and inspire people all around the world. This is very rewarding, fulfilling and reenergizing.
- This helps the growth and success of your business — uplifts your credibility on the market
- You get to fight the good fight everyday — this increases your self-pride and self-value while creating a change in your industry
- Your life is driven by purpose and direction — you have undepleted sources of internal motivation
- You become a mentor and a role model to others and with this responsibility comes greater momentum of change. The possibility of making an impact increases.
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 leadership makes a lot of noise in the particular industry. It often questions status quo, it can outsmart and automatically shine a negative light on the usual trends, strategies and approaches of other well established businesses as it innovates new ways and new ideas. Thought leadership can be threatening to others especially if it involves monetary loss for other businesses, for example: have you noticed how much anger and negativity Uber created by disrupting the operations of usual Taxi services?
I still would lean towards a statement that thought leaders are people rather than organizations.
In my experience the stronger and clearer my messages become the more people either gravitate to them, or disagree with them, which I believe both of these options can contribute to business growth. This shows that the public starts noticing the messages and listens enough to respond. Fabulous speaking opportunities open up on international stages, ideal clients gravitate more towards a business which is influential and is credible globally. Other businesses open doors to collaboration and joined ventures. We tend to admire those who stand for important causes with integrity.
If you really want to make a difference I recommend that you equip yourself in confidence and resilience to speak about it because your external environment will test your ability to hold your ground. In return you will be rewarded with limitless opportunities.
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.
I believe that a path to thought leadership is a journey based on studies, work experience, research and mastery of a certain area. It takes certainty and readiness to take a confident stand in any area of leadership.
I am delighted to share my five key strategies to become a thought leader in the industry:
- Have a TRUE PASSION. You want to develop a real emotional connection to your purpose. Peoples’ intentions, genuine or not, are often visible to others. People can sense ‘the vibe”. I couldn’t tell you how many times my new clients would say to me: “I don’t know what is about you, I just met you, but I feel like I can trust you. Your energy is infectious and you are so passionate when you talk about your work.” — that’s a huge compliment! See, I don’t need to even focus on selling strategies, when I talk from my heart I focus on serving others.
- Aim for achieving SELF-LEADERSHIP — the highest form of valuing and honoring self through taking responsibility, having discipline and emotional intelligence — all to achieve unprecedented results professionally and personally. I have a belief that in order to truly make an impact in my industry, Female Leadership & Performance as well as Diversity & Inclusion, I need to set high standards for myself and consistently meet them. Why? Because it’s only then when I am capable of producing high caliber results I can mentor others on how to do the same. When you lower your personal standards, you can say “bye bye” to your high aspirations, just like you wouldn’t attempt running a marathon wearing flip flops, or you wouldn’t attempt losing weight by eating cake every morning or drinking wine every night.
- Intentionally and consistently focus on growing your NETWORK. Be seen online and offline and be in it for the long haul. Be that person who greets people with a smile, who is curious about others, who wants to help others. We underestimate who is watching, and who we are impacting by simple gestures and kind conversations. I recently mentored a client, in my confidence and performance program, who was my personal training client eight years ago. She followed me on social media for all this years and enjoyed what I talked about in my posts. Incredible. Your network is your net worth.
- Focus on achieving honest and positive PUBLICITY. Set a goal for yourself to collaborate or to offer help to some media platforms which inspire you, platforms which already have a great reputation established. By associating yourself with well-established names or brands you increase your credibility and make yourself visible to their audiences. Doing a TEDtalk this year about “Diversity & Inclusion are logically impossible?” has definitely placed me as an authority in the eyes of others in this space and opened up many interesting collaborations.
- Find out what your X-FACTOR is and talk about it openly. Why? Because your X-Factor is your recognition point. It is something that your clients and customers will talk about to their friends. It is something that makes you stand out in a crowd, and trust me, business world is crowded. You don’t want to be associated with mediocracy. You want to be on the front line of change. Strive for excellence. My X-factor was a game changer in my business. I developed an ability to see, hear and feel what is beyond the obvious conscious language and body language. Through the power of observation and understanding human behavior I can instantly connect to peoples’ real limiting factors in unconscious behavior and thought patterns, which is a key component to stopping self-sabotage and achieving high caliber results in leadership and performance. Connection in my X-Factor.
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.
First person who comes to mind is Gary Vaynerchuk. Incredible multiple entrepreneur who talks about long term game in online and offline business, strong values and success built on consistent work and effort. What impresses me about his content is the number of predictions he has made about the market changes and business changes especially around the use of social media and online platforms, predictions which came true.
“Being unafraid of making mistakes makes everything easy for me. Not worrying about what people think frees you to do things, and doing things allows you to win or learn from your loss — which means you win either way. Hear me now: you are better off being wrong ten times and being right three than you are if you try only three times and always get it right.”
― Gary Vaynerchuk
I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?
I see the point. Some of us have an interesting perception of self-promotion. Would I ever introduce myself as a thought leader? No, I would not. Do I perceive my role models as thought leaders? Of course!
We are more comfortable with using this phrase to describe others when we choose to, rather than hearing someone else saying “I am a big fish”. We want our leaders to be humble. There is a very fine line in between displaying certainty and arrogance.
Here is what I have noticed. None of my role models who are the greatest minds alive call themselves thought leaders. Why? Because when you have a true core confidence, an ingrained sense of significance and certainty, you do not need to reaffirm who you are by any fancy titles.
What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
Prioritize your emotional, physical and mental health daily. Morning rituals like meditation, exercise, journaling, reading and a healthy diet all work as prophylactic approaches to burning out. Healthy rituals increase the capacity to perform well and to sustaining high performance.
Aim for finding happiness and fulfillment in everything you do. Do it because you love to, not because you have to.
On a deeper level burn out is a result of not listening to our body, not valuing our health and ultimately preventing ourselves from pursuing great potential. Some people say “I don’t have time for it, I am too busy”. No, you are not. You cannot afford not being well. What could some consequences be of you getting really sick? You don’t know how fantastically you could be performing only if you treasured your wellbeing. By the way, the most successful people in the world have a consistent strong morning routine. What makes you think you do not need to do the same?
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. 🙂
Thank you for a compliment! Creating a world full of empowered women who pursue their personal and professional goals unapologetically. I would love every woman on a globe to have access to resources and education. I would love every young girl in the world to have a choice and to have a voice.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“You do what you have to do, until you can do what you want to do” — Oprah Winfrey
I have experienced great adversity in my life and I know there will be more challenges present in the future. Whenever we experience hardship we often get stuck in momentary emotions. We allow those moments to plant seeds of doubt in our abilities to succeed. The reality is that any situation, good or bad, is temporary. Nothing lasts forever. There is always a solution to any challenge. Treat obstacles as opportunities to learn new skills and expand consciousness. Come up with a plan of action, do whatever you must to keep moving forward. Never ever quit until you have freedom to do what you want to do.
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. 🙂
YES! Simon Sinek please!
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful.