The role of thought leadership in shaping your personal brand


While debriefing a personal branding 360 assessment with a client the other day we stopped at a comment written by one of his peers. It said that he needed to develop his ‘thought leadership’ in order to have more influence across the organization. Today, he is only perceived as a technical expert, not someone who would add value to the organization strategically.


This was quite an observation! My client looked at me and with questioning eyes said: “But what is a thought leader?” 


Today, more than ever, leaders in organization are required to lead from an inspiring and powerful place. They cannot afford to be invisible so they need to market themselves well but not in a narcissistic way. They need to have a personal brand. Personal branding is not about bringing all the attention to the leader so that they become the center of the universe; it’s about creating an authentic image, projecting it and what it stands for consistently through different means, the most important of which is thought leadership.


Here are a couple of definitions I found online about thought leaders:


“Thought leaders are the informed opinion leaders and the go-to people in their field of expertise. They are trusted sources who move and inspire people with innovative ideas; turn ideas into reality, and know and show how to replicate their success. They create a dedicated group of friends, fans and followers to help them replicate and scale those ideas into sustainable change not just in one company but in an industry, niche or across an entire ecosystem.” (Source: Denise Brosseau Thought Leadership Lab)


“Becoming a thought leader in your industry doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily the smartest kid on the block.  Or even the most knowledgeable.  It does mean that you’re the most receptive and understanding of your customers’ needs, and strategic and tactical in educating customers and prospects.” (Source: MENG Blog)


In order to become a thought leader, you need to start by understanding who your customers and what your prospects are. Who is the audience you are trying to reach through your personal brand? How can you become a thought leader they can trust?


Trustworthy thought leaders are leaders who are generous with their ideas, ask the right questions and answer them candidly, keeping the needs of their audience in mind at all times, not their own needs. In the case of my client, his technical knowledge is his asset and what he has been known for, for years. Letting go of this technical expertise and just focusing on strategy would not be the smart thing to do. He should use this expertise as a spring board from which he erects his personal brand and thought leadership. He can become the go to leader with the technical knowledge who is able to see the big picture, think strategically and explain the most difficult concepts in the simplest of ways. Can you see how this thought leadership can shift his perception in the organization from a difficult leader to talk to or communicate with to someone who is easy to approach and understands what the others need?


Based on my experience and extensive research on the subject, here are ten tips on how you can become a thought leader that others follow and trust:


1-      Be clear on who your target audience is: Who will benefit the most from your impact as a leader?


2-      Make sure your personal brand reflects what this audience needs to see in order to believe and trust you. Remain authentic while projecting the image that will have the biggest influence on your target audience


3-      Develop your story and tell it in a genuine and compelling way. Make sure you are always consistent.


4-      Get noticed: Don’t miss a chance to position yourself as an expert in your field. Speak at conferences and ask to be the expert at industry panels.


5-      Claim your space online as well as offline: Write articles, create a blog, circulate a newsletter within your department that represents your thought leadership.


6-      Start a conversation and encourage people to come to you with their questions. Post the answers online and make sure you share them with those that you want to reach.


7-      Share the thought leadership of others that you follow. Share these links online but make sure you always add your viewpoint to what they have written. Your followers want to know what you think!


8-      Increase your circle of influence online by sharing links on many platforms at once like Twitter and LinkedIn.


9-      Be selective. Be visible where it matters and where your target audience is. If they are on LinkedIn, then don’t waste your time on Facebook.


10-   Stay current, voice your opinion and think strategically. Over time not only you will become influential but you will also be surrounded with influential friends.





About Rawan Albina


Rawan Albina is an Executive and Leadership Coach. She is one of the eleven Professional Certified Coaches (PCC) in the Middle East today.


Rawan served for 10 years as a manager and leader with multinationals Tetra Pak and Nestlé. She had her career breakthrough as a coach, trainer and motivational speaker delivering diverse programs to market leaders in the MENA region in English, Arabic and French. She also mentors MBA students and is a registered mentor coach with the ICF.


Rawan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business and Economics and is a graduate of the prestigious Coaches Training Institute. She is certified in the FIRO and WPB5 assessment tools. She is a proud member of the International Coach Federation (ICF) and the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC).




Twitter: @RawanAlbina


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