Kimberly Faith: “Listen to What is Not Being Said”

Thought leadership is about changing the world. If you are simply focused on the benefits in a self-serving manner (such as “How can I grow my followership?”) to fulfill an ego-based need, your impact on the world will be short-lived. The purpose of becoming a thought leader is to have a positive impact on the […]

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Thought leadership is about changing the world. If you are simply focused on the benefits in a self-serving manner (such as “How can I grow my followership?”) to fulfill an ego-based need, your impact on the world will be short-lived. The purpose of becoming a thought leader is to have a positive impact on the world that can inspire change — even long after you are gone. Thought leadership is about creating a legacy that leaves the world better than you found it.

As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kimberly Faith. She is best known as a system thinking expert, author, and futurist. She has worked with over 30,000 leaders spanning 33 countries and 24 industries. Kim recently published her award-winning book for women titled “Your Lion Inside: Discover the Power Within and Live Your Fullest Life.” She is also the curator of a podcast titled “The Sisterhood Report” which connects the dots to the larger story of women’s empowerment.

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?

From the time I was an awkward 10-year-old girl with thick-rimmed glasses and two hearing aids, I knew I was meant to travel the world and someday be an author. I always had my head buried in a book back then and to be honest, not much has changed. Upon graduation from college, I started my career with a small Chamber of Commerce which led me to work with Dr. Peter Senge, author of “The Fifth Discipline.” Surprisingly, that became the foundation for my career. I was then recruited to work with a national consulting firm that launched a 25-year career of traveling globally, inspiring leaders to own the power they do have. I recently published my award-winning book for women, “Your Lion Inside,” and the euphoria of achieving that lifelong dream was wonderful!

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

I have had the privilege to train or coach over 30,000 leaders from 33 countries spanning 24 industries. What does that really mean? It means I have had a lot of thought-provoking and deep conversations with leaders at all levels from around the world. Thought leadership is what I have been living for over two decades.

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

I remember attending a systems thinking conference hosted at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire — the very location where in July of 1944 delegates from 44 countries signed the Bretton Woods agreement, stating that gold was the basis for the US Dollar and those other currencies would be tied to the US dollar’s value. I remember hearing the history of that meeting and being dismayed that the agreement was dismantled by President Nixon in the early 1970s. What stayed with me was how the power of decisions from a long time ago — often before most of us were born — can still impact us today.

I also remember hearing a survivor from the Holocaust to share her heartbreaking story. With tears streaming down my face, I remember making a personal vow to never allow something like that to happen in the world again — not on my watch. A lofty goal from the heart of a 26-year-old woman just starting her career who truly believed we had the power to change the world. At 51, I am wiser and recognize the naivete of my young self; however, that conviction stays with me today as we unravel the global pandemic. I remember her sharing how the atrocities started with very small acts that by themselves did not appear to be a big deal. That the fear used to manipulate the masses back then grew into the atrocity we’ve come to know as the Holocaust. It was then I absorbed the importance of truly understanding the boiled frog syndrome and realized how important it was for humanity to be vigilant in connecting the dots to the larger story.

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 believe a thought leader looks at old ideas in new ways and sees things other people might have missed, all the while seeing how the future may be impacted. A thought leader asks hard questions and does not go with the flow of the status quo. An influencer often moves people within the flow of “today” — what is hot, what is cool, and shapes what is acceptable. A thought leader is willing to take a stand when their insight is not a popular opinion and brings vision to new territory. A thought leader is able to rise above the chaos so they can inspire others to think more clearly.

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 leadership is about changing the world. If you are simply focused on the benefits in a self-serving manner (such as “How can I grow my followership?”) to fulfill an ego-based need, your impact on the world will be short-lived. The purpose of becoming a thought leader is to have a positive impact on the world that can inspire change — even long after you are gone. Thought leadership is about creating a legacy that leaves the world better than you found it.

Leadership is a sacred honor and has become a lost art. I have hope for the younger generation that is now exploring, creating, redefining and blazing trails on social media. I do believe they will elevate the expectation of leadership and will stop the erosion that has become commonplace over the last thirty years. I look forward to seeing their light shine brightly.

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?

If you are becoming a thought leader from a place of integrity, opportunities will naturally come your way. It is about the energy you send out into the world. Like attracts like. You will be asked to speak, to write, to inspire others. Keynote speaking opportunities will arise. When I published my book, I shared copies with many leaders I have worked with in the past. My primary intent was to spread the message with a secondary intent of staying visible. Remember the old adage — out of sight, out of mind. It is important that you understand becoming a thought leader means you will need to be brave, be committed to giving your ideas a strong voice, and be willing to put in the work in finding platforms to amplify your voice.

My sending that book to a leader who used to be at GE resulted in an invitation to be on the external faculty for Microsoft when she changed jobs. That opportunity has since multiplied into additional career opportunities. True thought leadership can grow into a harvest if the seeds you plant are of sincere intent. People know when you are the real deal and when you are not. We are entering a golden age of transparency and respect; anything less than that will not survive.

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. Create Your Own Tune

It is my opinion that academia has done a disservice by training everyone to document every thought and cite references ad nauseum. That process has created a generation of people who simply rearrange the thoughts of people from the past. Tune in to your own knowledge! There is no need for your work to be a compilation of the thoughts of people from the past. Is it possible those thoughts might be responsible for the chaos we find in the world today? When it is helpful, feel free to add data points. Otherwise know the world is clamoring for people who are speaking with a new, authentic voice. The propensity to simply regurgitate what other experts have said is robbing us of truly innovative thinkers. Yes, be aware of what has happened in the past, but know you are every bit as important as the thinkers of the past.

2. Be a Life-Long Learner

Walk-through the world with a sense of wonder. Continue your journey of learning for life. Don’t allow yourself to have “arrived.” Sometimes this issue arises when it comes to pursuing advanced degrees. We reach a stagnant place of thinking we have learned all we need to know. We then become an expert and that is where arrogance slips in. As soon as you reach expert status in one subject, start learning the next subject. Walk-through the world with a sense of curiosity and life will be an adventure. Be willing to change your mind or position, but only after you have researched and questioned. Having an open mind will ensure you are exposed to all types of insight. Learning isn’t just something from a textbook or expert. Learning comes from observation of others, creativity through the arts, and your personal experiences. Be willing to hear them all and create your own authentic opinion and position.

3. Become a Master of Reflection

Slow down and capture your observations about life as it happens. It is easy to lose sight of the nuggets of wisdom when we are not disciplined in capturing them. Write your reflections in a journal. Record voice memos to yourself. Those notes of reflection then become the basis for ongoing thought leadership. I would never have been able to write my book without these notes. It is easy to forget key learnings because they slip away in the busyness of life.

4. Listen to What is Not Being Said

As you share your message with the world, people will start asking questions. Pay close attention to those questions. Discover for yourself how the questions they don’t ask out loud can speak louder than the ones they do. Spend time deeply learning the why behind their question. What fear is driving it? What is in the way of them absorbing the message? Conversations about the content I created as a thought leader always served as a roadmap.

Years ago, I was teaching a session about personal branding at a globally recognized corporate university. A young man came up to me after and asked: “Everything you said sounds great, but do introverts like me even have a chance?” I could see the pain behind his question. As we talked, I realized I was not addressing that concern within my presentations. He set me on a journey to better articulate the message in a way that reached broader audiences. I was grateful for his insight because he pushed me to go even deeper.

5. Learn the Power of Timing 
The reality is that sometimes your audience may not be ready for the message. Give careful thought to when you release your messages and determine where your message fits into the change curve. Learn to tune into the heartbeat of your audience so you can sense when they are ready for your new perspectives and when they are not. Consciously choose whether you make declarations or if a better technique is to ask leading questions. Timing is everything. It is the difference between your message being embraced or the audience passing by without giving it a second look.

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.

It has been a joy to watch two thought leaders on LinkedIn. I have watched Stephanie Espy inspire many in the STEM field as her passion practically leaps off the screen. Her integrity and sincerity shines through every post, every comment. So much so that I have become one of her greatest fans, even though we have never met.

I am also a believer in Felicia Davis, another thought leader I found on LinkedIn who is all about empowering black women to reach their full potential. I even did a podcast interview with her because I had to know more about what made her tick. Her grit, authenticity, and power was palpable in everything she shared.

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 buy into what everyone else thinks very much, so this is a tough question. I believe what you are alluding to is the difference between an influencer and thought leader that I shared above. Authenticity is an expectation now, and anyone who is only about optics, perception, and polish will be short-lived. People are craving connection. People are looking for answers. People want deep thinkers because they are tired of the sound-bite world that has led us astray. This is going to become especially obvious in the upcoming months as we watch what we once believed to be true unravel before our eyes.

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 love to see a movement based on #freethinking where we each learn to question what we are told in every field. Where we do our own research to come up with conclusions and question the status quo. Where we embrace people who ask tough questions and don’t ostracize them for questioning what others believe is “normal.” I have had the first-hand experience in many industries where what is considered “normal” is anchored in a deep vein of disrespect, and I believe it is time to turn that around.

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

The acronym for H.O.P.E. has become a calling. To me, hope stands for Harness Our Power Every day. We can learn to trust our intuition and not to look outside of ourselves for the answers. We can step out from under the canopy of powerlessness that has invaded the collective consciousness. Claim sovereignty over yourself, and your light will shine brighter as a result. Remember, in your reflection IS the answer you seek.

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. 🙂

Brene Brown and I would have a fabulous time together discussing how vulnerability has opened a gateway to a promising future for humanity. Her role in the larger story of the golden age we are entering has been inspiring to watch. Her work has awakened the collective consciousness allowing many others like myself to build upon her work. Besides, we both have a crazy sense of humor so the fun factor would be off the charts!

How can our readers follow you online?

Please connect with me on LinkedIn where I share business insights. Join me on Facebook for more personal inspiration, and on Youtube, I provide videos with the insight you can use in your life to reach your full potential. And, of course, I hang out on Twitter too. Many women are joining me at as we build the world’s largest book club. Join us!

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

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