Understand and recognize that you have a personal brand that needs to learn, practice, exercise, stretch and navigate towards maturing excellence. Create your distinctive brand to earn the right to create and shape other brands along your leadership path.
As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Peter Weedfald.
Peter Weedfald is one of America’s top sales and marketing leaders. As the senior vice president of sales & marketing at Sharp Electronics Marketing Company of America (SEMCA), Peter is in a rare position in which he oversees sales and brand marketing for both Sharp’s U.S. Home and Commercial Appliance businesses. By aligning sales and marketing as one, Peter has helped New Jersey-based Sharp Home Electronics Company of America focus on furthering its commitment to health, wellness, and Simply Better Living by bringing highly relevant product offerings to consumers and businesses.
Prior to SEMCA, Peter was the executive vice president of sales and marketing for Samsung Electronics in the U.S. and has also held senior executive roles as president of Gen One Ventures, SVP, CMO of Circuit City, EVP of ViewSonic Corp. and media company VP and executive publisher for the Ziff-Davis Publishing Company. Peter is an avid and energizing keynote presenter and author on topics in sales, marketing, technology, digital advertising, and business leadership. His latest industry-centric book, Green Reign Leadership, is sold in over 11 countries with proceeds donated to various children’s charities.
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?
I’ve been blessed over the years to hold senior leadership roles across great companies with direct responsibilities across sales, marketing, product management, and operations. For me, there is no greater leadership honor than to earn a man’s or woman’s trust in business. Through this journey, I have acted and performed like a leader to become a stronger and more formidable team member. I highly believe in the power of continuous communications. My goal is to create the art of the possible for all team members, to enlist contributions from all — to ensure the cold steel of our P&L is incredibly successful. After all, the brand is a promise and risk never sleeps.
As an example of my daily preparation, for over three decades I have arrived at my office no later than 6:45 am. I have skipped breakfast and lunch (no snacks) for this same length of time as food slows me down. I am a concert-level pianist and an ardent fan of and the authority of creativity as a catalyst for success. I have been frequently quoted saying: “Creativity + Relevance = WON.” I penned a book titled Green Reign Leadership, which is now available for sale in over 11 countries and has been translated into Mandarin for the Asian market. Every dollar in profit I receive is donated to a children’s charity. My galvanizing passion in business and in giving back is to help any and all team members achieve their personal dreams, their business passion… their short- and long-term goals. With their achievement, our company, our teams, our customers and even I will achieve most of our dreams and our aspirations.
Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?
I’ve never been charged in business with acting like an oracle or an autocrat, perhaps not even a viceroy in the language of thought leadership. My personal wisdom is only knee-deep and I spend as much time listening with squinting ears as I do responding. I have, however, been honored to work for great disciplined leaders and mentors and learn from their words, actions, and commitments. I am not sure just when I might be recognized as a thought leader but truly enjoy the daily exchanges and feedback from all team members to strengthen our united resolve and focus. I feel confident that the people and companies I have been blessed to run with and add value to will testify to our results and heightened advantages. I also believe that my nearly 200,000 LinkedIn followers find value in my thoughts and relevance.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
The blessing of finding and realizing the emotional capital garnered through philanthropy, through the creative formula to ensure success for those we truly care about. I have realized and acted upon my passion for giving back and am blessed for creating several substantial charitable organizations, including Samsung’s Four Seasons of Hope, Samsung’s Hope For Education, ViewSonic’s Journey of Hope, and Circuit City’s Fire Dog Across America. Through heartfelt vision, my teams and I have raised tens of millions of dollars for various children-specific charities. We established a commitment within our business lives and our mission charter to find a heart for the innocent and act upon it mightily. Like everyone I know, I find joy in volunteering and donating both time and money to several charitable organizations.
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?
In my first role as a “down the street” Manhattan salesman with Lanier Business Systems, I was required to memorize an 11-page script known as a “talking paper.” And believe it or not, if after two weeks onboard I was unable to recite all the words perfectly I would be terminated. So, I memorized it, passed a final oration test and took this “talking paper” into the market. I was required to cold call strange buildings between 40th and 45th streets on the West Side (my sales territory). The funniest mistake I made was after knocking on at least 50 doors my first day, I finally made it past the receptionist around 4:30 pm to a decision-maker.
Imagine my elation… imagine how painful and now, how funny it was to rip through the two pages of my oration and to freeze on page three, to have lost my voice. I froze, I apologized and I left the office as quickly as possible. I learned from this funny but painful moment… I learned the truest power and righteous way to take a room all because of this funny combination of memorization and complication in my ability to earn the right to make a sale. I also learned that I had inside me the will, the need and the means to succeed — to find a serious path to prosperity.
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?
In my humble opinion, when a leader is recognized as a cordon bleu thought leader it is both a great honor and privilege. A thought leader is one who influences positive and valued change on a sustainable personal and companywide basis. I believe for a thought leader to be seared in our minds and hearts they must be both authoritative and influential. A thought leader is an individual whose team members, customers, partners, and even competitors recognize their valued expertise. This individual offers a caring, sharing and giving perspective in all they say and do and acts as a sturdy, highly relevant driver of next steps in company strategy and focus. This is about acting as a brain trust of relevancy, creativity, and effectiveness in smart strategic growth paths.
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 biggest reward for becoming and/or being a thought leader, beyond financial gains, is quite personal. A thought leader is many things, especially the pilot for the storm, the optimistic, superlative champion who leads opportunity, unleashes for learning, to grow and to thrive as the “won” team. Investing and earning the right to be recognized as an effective thought leader earns personal heartfelt emotional capital that drives demand for more thoughts and leadership, leading a united army of proud, effective hearts and minds. For me, that is worth my long toiling hours, my entire business life.
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?
I believe thought leadership stems from this perfect business formula: Creativity + Relevancy + Speed = Growth. If leadership is highly creative yet not relevant to the market they serve and slow afoot, it will result in failure. If a leader is highly creative and relevant but much slower than market competitors, then failure will surely be their name. They will realize the largest museum of failed products, failed intentions and failed financial expectations. Through effective, stimulating creativity (product, messaging, presentation and services) and righteous relevancy (right market, right products, right offerings that amplify and outmuscle competitive advantage) and with swift intentions and deliverables, growth will be as durable as steel.
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 have followed this “path of 6” (sorry added one) to learn, to build, to formulate and to deliver thought leadership that serves a team, a strategy, a marketplace of customers:
- Understand and recognize that you have a personal brand that needs to learn, practice, exercise, stretch and navigate towards maturing excellence. Create your distinctive brand to earn the right to create and shape other brands along your leadership path.
- Create your own internet publishing model with a unique editorial franchise and voice of reality and prosperity to drive others to unite with you.
- Build your own inner circle of trusted thought leaders and learn from them, earn from them through their great knowledge, authority and results.
- Questions are the answers. Ask a mountain-high series of serious, highly relevant questions to arm your resolve, to mentor your ability to add value and affect others.
- Create an arena and corresponding circulation of new ideas, new views and new ways to examine business situations with new solutions to accelerate opportunity and demand. Think disruptive, act influential, act with purpose and valued results.
- Be creative, be relevant, be engaging, be inclusive… never be elusive.
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.
Eleanor Roosevelt comes to mind — the right and left hand of a president of our great nation. It is her various quotes that lead me to believe she was a great thought leader. For example, she said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” This impressive statement delivers strength and hope for those afflicted by bullies, who wish to tear down instead of building up. She also said, “If someone betrays you once, it’s their fault; if they betray you twice, it is then your fault.” Wise words and actions from a great thought leader, just one of so many I am lost in admiration for… that I learn from… that have shaped my career and perspective in the language of thought leadership.
I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?
The title and recognition of thought leadership is not for the faint of heart nor the uninitiated. As they say, “It takes one to know one.” This means those that truly strive for leadership are best equipped to understand and realize that the thought leadership moniker is not trite, but rather an honor and privilege to work and strive for… to have the pleasure to anoint others with through your career journey.
What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
Happiness in body, heart and emotions and sturdy stability at home and at workfuels happiness, strength and results. I suggest eating less, working out more, enlisting, hiring, influencing and seeding true dedicated heroes as team members and leading from behind. I also suggest that caring, sharing and giving every day not only minimizes burnout but rather spurs opportunity and growth for individuals, for teams and for entire companies.
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. 🙂
First, thank you for your generous words. The movement I would inspire is a rigorous revitalization of our educational system. I have a multitude of highly relevant and motivational ideas on what we need to teach our children to best prepare them for life. As an example, we spend on average 12 years being educated so we can be gainfully employed, so we can make money. No child should ever enter the workforce unsure of what they wish to become, of which field or industry best suits their talent, their aspirations… no child should wonder just how they should invest their hard earned money to ensure a lifetime of financial success and family happiness. I’m very happy to explore this much more as a thought leader.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Yes, with pleasure. It is a quote from Albert Einstein, a genius who created so much through his brilliance in science. He said with economy of language, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” For a man with such great actionable and effective knowledge to recognize and herald imagination and creativity as first in line to effect positive change is amazing and is a lifeblood for thought leadership yesterday, today and tomorrow. This quote sparked and fueled my thinking many years ago about the importance of creativity (imagination) and relevance (knowledge) as the greatest levers for competitive advantage to make and take market opportunity. Thanks to Mr. Einstein’s empirical thoughts, the union of creativity and relevance has become my doctrine of necessity, my armor and sword of opportunity.
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 please. My primitive reflex based upon this very good question causes me to realize that person is Abraham Lincoln. He caused so much change with intense focus and speed… through a very tough and painful battle across our land, across the hearts and minds of millions of people. He is known for many accomplishments and a multitude of brilliant quotes. My favorite is “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” Although I will never have the opportunity to meet and greet this great thought and action leader, I do hope someday to meet one of our presidents to discuss the language of thought leadership… to learn, to ponder and to put into effect another level of leadership as I continue to progress in my life’s journey.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful.