Ready to Be a Thought Leader? The bottom line:
Ready to be a Thought Leader? How to Increase Your Influence, Impact and Success, by Denise Brosseau is one of those books I’ve put to the top of my must-read list, without the slightest doubt.
The book isn’t on Amazon’s hot list, and I haven’t heard many people talk about it lately, yet I think that it is a powerful tool if you are interested in building up your own leadership.
Denise Brosseau provides various concepts and very actionable tools here, which will help you get somewhere. At the end of the day, whilst leadership is a big topic, only a few people have a genuine opportunity to have a go for it. This book is different because it shows that, using what you have and building from your own expertise, you can make things work differently. Sounds promising, doesn’t it? Keep reading for more!
Book suggestion: Ready to Be a Thought Leader? – Denise Brosseau.
My reading suggestion for this month is Ready to be a Thought Leader? How to Increase Your Influence, Impact and Success, a book written by Denise Brosseau that I have already read three times.
Now, before I get on with this, let me warn you. This book is not a recent book (2013) and it is not on Amazon’s hot list so don’t expect too much noise and trendiness here.
Still, my point on I’ll Make You Think Smart is to give you some good stuff to think about, and this is precisely what I’m about to do.
Ready to be a Thought Leader?
I have written about a couple of books on charisma and influence development by Dale Carnegie recently, as you might remember, and I thought that Denise Brosseau’s would be a great reading companion for those of you interested in these topics.
The reason for this is simple: Ready to be a Thought Leader? is a book about doing great things with what you already have, and it makes leadership a topic everyone can touch, explore and use.
I bumped into this book whilst finishing my Ph.D. thesis. My work wasn’t about personal branding and leadership at all, so don’t look for a direct connection here. No, what seemed relevant at the time was the idea of building myself a profile I would then build upon after leaving university.
Denise Brosseau being an advisor to CEOs and high-level entrepreneurs, I figured that her book would provide me with some useful hints. And it totally did.
Leadership discussions are fascinating! The point is not to become an improved version of Steve Jobs or Barack Obama here. The point is to try and identify what it is you do well, and how you can use it to brand yourself and promote what you know, what you like, what you do, what you believe in and all that.
Said differently? Identify your rise-and-shine opportunities, and build on them so that others recognize you as an expert and thought-leader in your field.
Overall, this book is a little gem. Nobody talks about it anymore, but it nonetheless remains an opportunity for you to add a little bit of thinking to your personal life. Just saying!
As usual, here is what you get on this page:
- A brief overview of the book (that includes my SMART takes).
- A much more comprehensive commentary of what the book is about, with the author’s main topics explained in detail.
- The book’s main themes, questions, and conclusions in bullet points.
- Why the book was worth my time, why it will be valuable to you, and additional reading suggestions if you are interested in the topic!
Ready to be a Thought Leader?: brief book review (for starters).
Ready to be a Thought Leader? is one of those books that talk about leadership development in a smart and easy-to-apply way.
The book is interesting because it is not a normal book on leadership. Denise Brosseau’s objective is not to turn you into a leading machine. It is to help you understand how you can do more with what you have and to help you create and implement an influence-building and personal branding strategy.
As a matter of fact, her personal story is a typical example of what you could achieve. She started from nothing, ended up in an NGO and developed it on a large scale, eventually coordinating all those fans who sooner or later offered to broadcast her ideas and replicate her model. I’m sure you see the point.
What is thought leadership?
The term ‘thought leadership’ is at the heart of the book, and it is worth thinking about because it is something everyone can develop, one way or another.
Leadership is a complex skill to develop for a simple reason: not everyone has a team to lead, and not everyone has opportunities to decide. BUT! Thought leadership is a different concept.
Thought leadership is about using your expertise and passions to build an expert profile that others will recognize and value sufficiently to admit your credibility and, ultimately, give you a seat at the table.
In short, you might never have an opportunity to become a leader from a corporate perspective, but working on creating yourself an aura could very well give you some significant recognition on which you will then be able to build.
Thought leadership: a trendy word or a real challenge?
I talked about the book with a colleague once, and his comment was interesting. He basically laughed and said that everyone could be a thought leader nowadays. All it takes to be seen as an influence is a twitter account filled with junk, he said.
His argument holds! Let’s face it… Nowadays with a social network account, many people self-nominate themselves as “influencers” and brag about their responsibilities to their followers…
Except that this is not what thought leadership is about. Thought leadership isn’t about having thousands of followers and getting liked at all. It is about having a story to tell, and about using it to move on in your life, with something tangible that people are willing to believe and support until what you believe in becomes their own thing. Something they want to develop too.
Funnily enough, the foreword of the book – written by Guy Kawasaki – answers that exact question! In his own words:
“People use the term ‘thought leadership’ as if all you have to do to become one is set a tweeter account and start tweeting. This is hardly the case. True thought leaders have an expertise, a passion, and a track record of changing the world. They become thought leaders when they rise above themselves by sharing their knowledge so that others can change the world too”.
I’m getting into the details with a much more comprehensive book review below (keep reading!), but in short, here is what the book says:
Ready to be a Thought Leader?: The comprehensive book review.
Now, the book is basically built around four major themes.
One is obviously the idea that thought leadership is a special concept which needs to be dissociated from leadership as we all know it. Another theme is passion, which at the end of the day is the best tool on which to build your expert profile. The third big theme is influence-building, or the art of building yourself a network convinced that your ideas are worth their attention and support. The fourth theme finally discusses ways to implement your strategy and make you what you want to be.
As usual, this more comprehensive part of the book review starts with the main themes and questions considered in the book – in bullet points. I’ll then elaborate on the themes more extensively. Let’s dig in!
The book in bullet points
Denise Brosseau explores these major themes:
- Leadership development
- Personal branding
- Network and influence thinking
She also asks a variety of questions, including:
- What exactly is thought leadership?
- Is there anything you want to be known for?
- How to create your own leadership and influence starting with a passion?
- What are the way to make things happen for real?
Sounds interesting, right? Now, let’s get into the details. Just keep reading!
Ready to be a Thought Leader? – Theme #1: Thought leadership is a special concept.
Ready to be a Thought Leader? starts from a very fundamental question which comes as follows: what do you want to be known for?
Would you like to be remembered as the one who decides for others? Or would you rather be the one who plants seeds, inspires and guides others towards building something much bigger than you?
Said differently, Denise Brosseau defines thought leadership as a transition from daily routine to influence-thinking, which implies a commitment and a passion for building creative initiatives capable of getting people on board, impacting people and making the world a better place
What makes a thought leader?
Denise Brosseau gives interesting definitions of who thought leaders are.
She sees them as “ideators” capable of expending their ideas nurturing relentless curiosity and permanently willing to question the status quo to make things move. They engage with the ecosystem, create dialogue and interaction so that others can join the discussion and contribute.
Because stories are the best way to learn and gather people, thought leaders also have storytelling skills which enable them to simplify complex information and make concepts actionable by all.
Because these concepts are built on principles and values shared by the like-minded, thought leaders therefore have a fantastic ability to create trust and develop more relationships with others. Consistently, sustainably, patiently, until results appear.
Said differently, thought leaders are those who can build connection, be approachable enough to find support and involve others in their mission, while eventually making things happen. Hence, thought leadership is a smart aspect of leadership and a strong tool in your personal leadership-building strategy.
Where do you stand?
I wrote earlier that the book is very practical and full of actionable advice, remember? Well, the book actually starts from a very concrete exercise, i.e. eighteen pages of test and a powerful checklist designed to make you realize how you are doing so far.
For instance, do you have a personal niche already? Do you have early adopters on whom to test your ideas? How good are you at building engagement? Have you started to create a blueprint? Have you already thought about making it scalable and replicable?
See? Just practical questions. Answer them honestly, and you’ll see where you stand. it’s as simple as that.
Ready to be a Thought Leader? – Theme #2: Thought leadership building starts from passion.
Having asked these questions, Denise Brosseau then gives the reader a starting point: passion.
The concept of passion may sound very Blue-Skyish (BS, I mean) but it is really widespread in the business and entrepreneurship world. There, passion is a highway to vision, which in turn creates motivations and niches, and leads to the most promising projects.
In the case of thought leadership, the idea is the same. in Ready to be a Thought Leader?, Denise Brosseau pushes you to “find your uniqueness and exploit it in the service of others” because – as in business – having a unique niche is the best way to create your own playing field.
Think in terms of personal expertise, personal commitments, and in terms of personal credentials. For instance, what can you do? What have you done? Have you achieved any successes you could build upon? Also think about what you do, about what moves you and about what you are committed to.
Answer these questions, find the common denominator, and consider if this denominator is typically the thing you would like to be remembered for. If the answer to that question is yes, then you might find your personal thought leadership niche.
Denise Brosseau’s ‘What If Future’ concept.
All this leads very logically to what Denise Brosseau calls her “What If Future” concept.
Simply put? Think big, find what you want to be remembered for, and imagine what would happen IF the whole idea was to become a reality.
In her own words, “the bigger the idea and sometimes the more crazy and improbable it might be, the more likely you are to get funding”. Because people want to feel inspired, and when they get inspired they can move the world.
This part of the book is really inspiring. I personally used it to think about my own priorities (together with another book, The One Thing by Keller and Papasan) and I must say it proved very efficient in helping me to define my own priorities and projects. Just saying…
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Ready to be a Thought Leader? – Theme #3: Building your influence.
Ready to be a Thought Leader? then explores the challenge of building what Denise Brosseau calls the “ripples of influence”.
She uses the pretty image of drops of water falling one after another and creating smooth and long-lasting waves, which makes sense.
And, again, she provides lots of ideas. From nurturing agitation to creating your personal advisory team and finding ways to make the most of those ideas that people have but never use.
Just do it.
An interesting idea here is that you need to dare. You need to dare dream big, and you need to dare do something to make it happen.
You need to wear the leader’s hat, you need to push your project, you need to make it happen. But unless you decide to do it, tomorrow will always be another day in which very little happens.
Find your stakeholders.
Building your thought leader’s influence also requires that you find your various stakeholders.
Some will support your vision, others will question it, but no movement can start unless people make it happen.
In all cases, those stakeholders must be smarter than you. They must know things you don’t know, they must have skills you don’t have.
As Denise Brosseau writes it, you being a thought leader isn’t about you deciding anything for others. It is about them recognizing your aura, and about them letting you act as an energy catalyst. Period!
Testing and iterating.
One consequence of this idea is that part of your job as a thought leader is to nurture test and measure processes.
Of course, you need to make things happen. That’s a no-brainer. But considering that your main role is to inspire and get people on board, you also need to tailor your action so that others can turn your vision into their mission. And that implies testing and testing again.
The importance of finding and activating advocates.
As I just wrote, the key idea in Ready to be a Thought Leader? is that you cannot achieve much on your own. Others must help you do things, and when it comes to being endorsed and supported the best move is to develop a network of advocates.
Denise Brosseau has a clear goal here, which is to multiply the ripple effect mentioned previously, by letting others get your word out there.
As she says it very simply, “enlist … champions and allies who can adopt your ideas and advocate or evangelize on behalf of your efforts, or even lead initiatives that mirror the ones you’ve begun”.
Who would these people be, then?
Good question. Possibly “change agents”, as she calls them, or people who at least have a tendency to try and challenge the status quo as a way of life. Talking about challenging the status quo, don’t miss my book suggestion: Originals, How Non-Conformists Move the World, by Adam Grant.
Your champions and advocates would also be willing to make calls, introduce you to others, even put their name alongside yours and vouch for you. They might be anonymous doers, or key opinion leaders ready to support a cause they believe into… Pick them well!
What’s in it for them?
Building your influence using the power of others depends on one important thing, though. You need to think about what’s in it for them.
At the end of the day, finding your advocates is only one part of the work! Once you have them, you need to help them see why they should get on board, why your project can become theirs, and how they can actually make things work.
Think, also, about the things and skills they can learn by collaborating with you. If you have specific talents, your champions might be interested in learning from you, in getting access to people you are connected to, and in gaining some additional credibility being associated with your name. Why not after all?
Denise Brosseau elaborates on this extensively, so if you are interested and want to find out more I strongly suggest that you get the book and read it!
Ready to be a Thought Leader? – Theme #4: Making it happen.
The last theme in Ready to be a Thought Leader? is the art of making things happen. And, again, Denise Brosseau explores the topic extensively, using tons of examples. I’ll only scratch the surface here, but the big idea goes like this.
Have an actionable roadmap.
Knowing where you go is important, but it is not enough. You also need your roadmap actionable so that others can make it work too.
Denise Brosseau gives very good advice here, including a simple exercise that most people never do, i.e. making a list of your stakeholders (so that your partners can access it, I mean) and prepare a written version of the key message you want to convey. Write your big issue down (to make it clear and obvious), add your top three ideas (so people can use them out there) and prepare your proof points (so they can say things that make sense).
She also talks about the art of engaging with people, discusses the role of white papers, so forth and so on.
You should be on stage.
Denise Brosseau also elaborates on your own role. This sounds silly, but who better than you ought to defend the big thing?
Yet, getting at the forefront isn’t that easy. Again, she uses a very smart image to illustrate the issue: you might feel like a tiny kitten, but when you look in the mirror you should see a lion. Period!
This lion thing means a lot, and it implies even more. You should find what she calls your imperative (you don’t build things with maybes but with decisions to actually do) and you should think about your own communication process!
At the end of the day, taking a stand is difficult because we can feel bad with self-promotion, but in her opinion, the point is rather to talk in terms of project and value creation. Again, think about your What If Future, and use it as a basis. It all makes a lot of sense, really.
We never do anything alone.
In the same way, people say that Rome was not built in one day, Denise Brosseau often insists that “none of us got there on our own”. Said differently, to get things done, we need to accept that help is crucial.
That means, you should overcome your fears and see yourself as a role model whose job is to guide, but you should also put systems into place to get your feedback from those who have a valuable opinion. Brosseau talks about building mastermind groups (she calls them ‘braintrusts’) and gives, again, plenty of very actionable ideas. Your turn to act if you want to find out more!
Getting your message right.
When it comes to making things happen, the issue of getting your message through is also super important. You wouldn’t call someone without a proper message a thought leader, would you?
Anyways, Denise Brosseau goes through the process with, as usual, a lot of explanation and tips. How to select the right audience, how to prepare the message and get it through, how to find the pitfalls so as to turn individuals of all opinions into a community…
Of course, the topic leads to the idea of building a brand out of your expertise and point of view. That involves working on your message, of course, but not only. Think storytelling, think making people relate to whatever you have to say, think big picture … there is a lot to work on here.
Creating your own intellectual property.
One of the key ideas I’ve kept from Ready to be a Thought Leader? is that, for your message to be heard and for your vision to develop into something, you need to create your own intellectual property.
In Denise Brosseau’s case, creating such property was a matter of creating processes and standards that would then be used by others to develop the various chapters of her NGO. But she talks about the topic in great length and gives plenty of ideas as to how others could do something like that.
The suggestion makes sense for a variety of reasons, if you think about it. Beyond being a very actionable tool, your intellectual property can also help to limit the mistakes which can be made inadvertently by those who try to help (do this because X, avoid doing that because Z …). It is also something that can help you develop your reputation, but it can also be protected to preserve a brand, or generate an income and create a legacy if you write a book for instance.
Again, I am merely scratching the surface here, find the book and see for yourself.
Ready to be a Thought Leader?: The main conclusions
Denise Brosseau comes to the following conclusions.
- Denise Brosseau writes that everyone can become a leader, not because of their rank but because they have an expertise or a passion they can use to be recognized as a leading figure in their field.
- Thought leadership is therefore different from leadership alone, to the extent that what matters is one’s ability to be recognized for their ideas, methods and doing without being given a boss’ job. Thought leadership is the type of leadership you can have an influence on.
- Passion is the key to getting there, because your passion (or expertise) gives you an edge on something. Plus, people only join those who are passionate about what they do, so passion really is the basis to build on.
- Making things happen for real is complex but possible. All in all, you need to create your own blueprint and roadmap, while keeping in mind that you cannot reach the sky on your own… So don’t forget to get people on board!
Ready to be a Thought Leader?: Food for thought.
As usual, let’s finish this book review with some food for thought!
As I wrote earlier, Ready to be a Thought Leader? How to Increase Your Influence, Impact, and Success isn’t a bestseller these days (at least last time I checked) but, strictly between you and me, this book is one of those surprises you want to keep for yourself.
If I had to summarize the book in a sentence, I’d say that the big idea is to create your own blueprint based on passion, influence-building efforts, and advocates, then replicate this blueprint and progressively reinforce the community which makes the initiative live.
Beyond this big picture, though, I’d say that Ready to be a Thought Leader? is pretty much like a personal guide you should have somewhere, not too far. As you can see below in the rating box, this book is, in fact, one of the top books on my must-read list, and I’m giving it a five-star rating without a doubt.
The book talks about leadership-building, yes, but it does it in a practical way and that makes it very relevant. Especially if you are interested in personal development and project-building. If you are running a project or thinking about doing just that, in fact, this book is, in my opinion, a must-read which would go along very well with some of the business books I’ve already written about.
Start with Why by Simon Sinek would be a logical reading suggestion here (my comment on the book will be published here soon), but to be honest I haven’t been very excited by this book. I’ve found Denise Brosseau’s piece far more engaging and thrilling. Yep!
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Rules for Revolutionaries by Guy Kawasaki is, however, a very complementary book if you are running a project.
If you are only interested in the self-development aspect of things, Dale Carnegie’s book on building self-confidence through public speaking is also a recommended reading and companion book!
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That’s it for now, but don’t stop here! My reading notes are meant to give you a very comprehensive overview of the books I read and some food for thought for the month. That’s why I’ll Make You Think SMART is the Kick-Ass Book Reviews blog after all!
Having said that, the next step for you is to keep digging! Remember, books are a cheap way to learn new things and to benefit from the experience of others at no cost. Not to mention the stories you’ll be able to tell after a good read!
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