Generosity — Helping others succeed will create willing partners for your business. Don’t fear the competition, lead it.
As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mark Bello. Mark is an attorney, civil justice advocate, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Legal Thriller Series.
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 father attended college but did not graduate. He was not a “financial success,” but he was the finest man I have ever known. The advice he gave me almost daily was “get an education — a good education is the ticket to success.” My Jewish mother (Dad was Jewish, too, if you’re wondering), a homemaker, was all about “my son, the doctor,” but unfortunately, science and I did not get along. When my mother came to terms with that, it became “my son, the lawyer.” After Mom shoved me in that direction, I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t passionate about the law, especially about civil justice for the less fortunate, my chosen field. Tort law is a true David vs. Goliath experience. The lawyer and his client go to battle against insurance companies or large corporations of substantial money and power. The client has no money and, on top of that, he or she is now disabled. The corporate defendant delays and denies just compensation — hoping to force the client to become desperate to settle too quickly for too little. The steady hand and head of a competent lawyer is the only protection most citizens have.
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?
I was in court in front of a judge who was obviously biased in favor of the corporate defendant. I was arguing my case, and for the only time in my career, the judge told me to “shut up” or he would find me in contempt of court. I lost my temper and said “I have nothing but contempt for the court.”
Needless to say, I spent the next few hours in a holding cell, until I apologized to the judge for my “outburst.” It took everything I had to apologize — I was entitled to my arguments and to represent my client to the best of my ability. He had no right to threaten me or tell me to “shut up,” other than he was the judge and it was his courtroom. However, a good lawyer knows how to deal with power. I swallowed my pride and did what I had to do.
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 someone in a particular industry whom others look to for advice, guidance, and expertise. Different than leading the day-to-day operations of a particular business or industry, a thought leader might be the person his or her peers look to for advice on a more global scale. My transition from practicing law to funding law, with vast experience in both fields, caused peers in both the law and the legal funding field to seek my advice. My expert opinion is often sought in legal disputes over lawsuit funding and by financial institutions looking to enter the market. I have more combined legal and legal funding experience than anyone else in my market and that creates demand for me as a “thought leader.”
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?
When you are a go-to person in your industry, when others look to you and your company for leadership as an industry expert, you will undoubtedly be asked to participate in transactions or enterprises being handled by those who have sought your expertise. When you behave as a willing partner, rather than a selfish competitor, this will accrue to your benefit.
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?
For me, it was combining my legal expertise with my role as a trail-blazer in a young, untried industry. My status as a practicing lawyer gave me instant credibility and, as my business grew, and “rookies” entered the arena, my expertise stood out. “Thought leadership” was almost a foregone conclusion on both sides of the transaction and I was happy to assist.
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’m not sure I have five, but here goes:
- Hard work and an independent, entrepreneurial spirit — It sounds simple, but some people are too lazy to become leaders. Some are not driven to become leaders. If you want to punch a clock and work for others, that’s perfectly okay, but a thought leader is innovative and driven — relentless, even — and knows no boundaries when it comes to success.
- Education — The acquisition of knowledge, unique to your expertise, is the key to becoming a thought leader in your chosen field.
- Aggressiveness — Get out into the community, especially your business community. Join clubs, organizations, explain your business and your role in it to everyone you meet. Don’t just become someone people know; become someone people want to know.
- Market yourself as a leader. Promote yourself to others in your industry and, if appropriate, to the general public.
- Generosity — Helping others succeed will create willing partners for your business. Don’t fear the competition, lead it.
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.
Bill Gates and Steve Jobs revolutionized operating systems for computers. Mark Zuckerberg did the same with social media. Jeff Bezos revolutionized supply chain management and wholesale/retail sales. These are, in my opinion, the ultimate “thought leaders.”
I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?
I disagree. If we look to people like those named in my previous answer, there are very few people who lead their fields or industries the way those guys do.
What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
That’s a tough one, because relentlessness is a necessity. However, a proper balance between your business life and your personal life is absolutely necessary. Work out, schedule vacations and family time. Know yourself; when you need a break, take it. All work and no play . . .
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:
People do not understand the justice system. Citizens permit large corporations and politicians to strip them of their civil and criminal rights without even knowing what’s happening to them. I’d like people to read my pro-justice novels, understand the system better, and feel comfortable challenging insurance companies; local, state and national political representatives; the police; and other authority figures. Ask where they stand on issues of tort reform, racial and religious injustice, wage inequality, taxes and government assistance, etc. Stand up for your rights! The average person would be surprised to find out, for instance, that corporations receive more “welfare” than poor people do. What’s wrong with this picture? My movement would be the “liberty and justice for all” movement.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
From the Old Testament, Book of Deuteronomy: “Justice, Justice, Shalt Thou Pursue.” I have dedicated my professional life to this “life lesson.”
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. 🙂
Ruth Bader Ginsberg! My treat!
Second Place: Barbra Streisand. I’ve been in love with her since “People.”
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Twitter: @justicefellow @lawfiguy
Linked In: www.linkedin.com/in/lawsuitfinancial