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Sahar Paz: “Live out loud”

I want to encourage any professional with career goals to share their thought leadership. Will this make you a thought leader tomorrow — no. But, when you do go to a networking event, apply for a promotion or a new job, you’ve got an online trail of credibility. By committing to publishing at least one article a […]

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I want to encourage any professional with career goals to share their thought leadership. Will this make you a thought leader tomorrow — no. But, when you do go to a networking event, apply for a promotion or a new job, you’ve got an online trail of credibility. By committing to publishing at least one article a month, let’s say on your LinkedIn, you are holding yourself accountable to becoming more aware of who you are in your professional role, and as you write your opinion or reflection of an experience, you are going to gain more confidence and clarity that will benefit other areas of your life.


As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sahar Paz.

Sahar Paz didn’t grow up playing house, she played office. At the age of 13, she launched a baby and pet sitting company generating more cash flow than all the lemonade stands in the neighborhood! A natural leader with an active left-and-right brain, Sahar was 25 years old in New York City with a lucrative career in Finance and bored out of her mind. Inspired to share what she learned in the business, she pivoted and dedicated herself to feeding the entrepreneurial voice of teenagers by founding Free Your Star Foundation. The nonprofit partnered with low-income high schools in Brooklyn with credit-earning programs written by Sahar herself. Championing the voice of others to help them understand their emotional intelligence and their personal drivers has always been Sahar’s mission. Her book, Find Your Voice part-memoir, part cognitive behavior guide, epitomizes that pursuit. Published in 2014, her message gained attention within forward-thinking organizations such as HBO, Facebook, Whole Foods, and the Texas Medical Center, where Sahar was invited to deliver keynote presentations. After five years on the road, Sahar became the CEO of Own Your Voice Strategy Firm, a personal branding agency that focuses on placing professionals on stages to speak. Today, she resides in Houston and has given up pet sitting to play with her dog Rico instead. You can find Sahar on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @SaharPaz.


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 family refers to me as a “late bloomer” — mostly because I used my career to explore while they took a more linear approach. Once I became a personal brand and communications expert it all clicked and made sense. But, before it did, there were chunks of time, meaning three to four years at a time during my 20’s and 30’s that I dedicated to mastering the role I had at the time. I started in finance in New York City and I did well for myself, enough to feel bored and perplexed about my purpose by my mid-twenties. I pivoted in a way you can only do in New York City, from finance to fashion — the business side of fashion. My untimely pivot coordinated with the economic crash of 2008. That’s when I was thrust into the freelance and consulting world leveraging my personal brand on MySpace — yes, MySpace to grow my speaking business and by 2010 I leveraged it to launch a non-profit which I ran for nearly 5 years. On the verge of burnout, I scaled the nonprofit programs back to only award scholarships. Again it was my personal brand at the helm of my next venture, to publish Find Your Voice, my memoir and course in emotional intelligence — this relaunched my speaking business which is a big part of the work I do today. Speaking and hosting workshops across the nation, from yoga studio’s to the offices of Facebook, HBO, and Whole Foods, I met conscious leaders who had already found their voices, and were ready to own their voice and scale their thought leadership. That’s when I formed Own Your Voice Strategy Firm, we specialize in personal branding and emotionally intelligent communication strategies based out of Houston, Texas. #HoustonStrong

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

It’s a part of my every day. To listen intently to leaders in healthcare, law, technology, innovation, and Media and brand their thought leadership to meet their professional goals. It’s what naturally flows from their brain that I am honored to brand and share with the world. I’m still making a social impact, now instead of being a mentor to a dozen students every semester, I brand virtual mentors by way of creating personal brands.

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

I had just finished four years of traveling as a speaker and I knew I was ready for a line of work that would allow me to be more grounded. That’s when I began to think of my lane of genius which is seeing people authentically and building impactful narratives — I didn’t want to just coach people anymore, I wanted to build brands around the professional goals they shared with me. As I was wondering if I should form Own Your Voice Strategy Firm, I called by Board of Advisors for a round table meeting — that morning I got a call from a woman I met at a networking event almost a year before. She was looking for personal branding services. She was also a major Executive Producer in the film world, and she became my first client.

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 knew from the start that I was only going to brand, conscious leaders, I wasn’t going to champion and strategize a leader that wasn’t thinking about the greater good of their work — I wanted to work with the kind of leaders we needed in the world. Well, I would find these “woke” leaders, and they had credibility and the appetite to speak, but they were not ready to OWN their voice by owning their opinions — by standing behind thought leadership that wasn’t watered down or soundbites borrowed from other people. I can laugh now at having an entire production team there to film a sizzle reel, and the script that was written, practiced, and agreed to isn’t what comes out of my client’s mouth. Instead, it’s generic soundbites of what this person thinks they should sound like.

Nearly 70% of my clients deal with Impostor Syndrome, I’ve learned that the most credible leader had insecurities, needs to be acknowledged, and most of all need to be equipped with emotionally intelligent tools to overcome the trepidation of owning her/his voice. Now before I take on a client, I share with them that I have a core value to not let our work together remain as words on paper, they must own their voice, and share their thought leadership authentically. It’s in the contract as well, in a motivational way that holds every client accountable to their greatness.

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?

You lead with your thoughts — then you are a thought leader. If we take the same position and put two leaders side-by-side to get the job done, they would each do it in their own way, own voice, their own approach. They will look at and interact with an app, software, their team, and everything else in their own way. A thought leader is self-aware and able to articulate their mastery and share these intricacies publicly. I know many thought leaders that are not influencers, meaning, they don’t have these two qualities:

  1. They have moderate metrics, not volumes of readers, nevertheless thought leaders in their industry, especially local to their area.
  2. They share from a journalistic point of view, never to persuade or sell.

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?

I want to encourage any professional with career goals to share their thought leadership. Will this make you a thought leader tomorrow — no. But, when you do go to a networking event, apply for a promotion or a new job, you’ve got an online trail of credibility. By committing to publishing at least one article a month, let’s say on your LinkedIn, you are holding yourself accountable to becoming more aware of who you are in your professional role, and as you write your opinion or reflection of an experience, you are going to gain more confidence and clarity that will benefit other areas of your 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?

When I first started to Own Your Voice the sole source of lead generation came from sharing my thought leadership through public speaking and podcasts locally. I was strategic with my narrative and call to action in both situations and it paid off for more than 5 quarters.

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. Space: Make space in your calendar, email, and drive for your thought leadership. Take it seriously.
  2. Pay Attention: What thoughts lead your day? Especially when you show up to the office.
  3. Commit: Hold yourself accountable for writing and publishing one article, video, or podcast a month.
  4. Opinion: Have an opinion, and show it in tidbits by sharing links to third-party articles with a few sentences of your thoughts upfront.
  5. Live out loud: If you’re sharing thought leadership in the form of words on a screen, read it out loud and listen for personality. Make sure you’re not sounding like a robot — or like your competitors.

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?

Marie Forleo has been able to recreate herself and stay relevant without watering down her mastery. She has found a way to scale her thought leadership in a year-long video release that she has leveraged for several different channels of income: online course, book, and now speaking. Consistency and emotional depth to the subject is something we can all take from Marie.

I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?

A real thought leader stays aware of the roaming titles that trend like thought leader, industry expert, or influencer and use these titles to their benefit. A true thought leader will not be deterred by this as it’s the sharing of their wisdom that brings them closer to their joy.

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

Take yourself as seriously as you do your work. Schedule the time you need to eat, breathe, workout, and rest.

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. 🙂

We don’t need more movements — injustice to humans and the planet are being handled at a rate faster than ever before. We need stamina. We need inspiration. We need people to continue to find and own their voices by sharing their thought leadership, as a way to hand the torch to those up-and-coming. We have a lot of work to do, we need more voices of impact to fuel the movements that have already begun.

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

“What you have to say will impact the world.”

My voice has been my vehicle for healing and success. It has been the endless conversation within and the necessary dialogue with others that has catapulted me to living true to my purpose.

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 lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Joni Mitchell — I just want to listen to her share how she stayed true to her voice.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can find me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn @SaharPaz

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

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