The first step of thought leadership is getting so clear on your vision for a changed world that you actually embody it. You become a walking manifestation of the change you’re working towards.
That’s why I’m reframing thought leadership as “lived leadership” – because you have to BE about it.
In this (solo) episode, I’m sharing how to dream up your vision – your north star – to practice embodied visionary leadership, and how it fits into a larger constellation.
If you’re ready to build a platform and community to break down the way things have always been, it all starts with imagining a new future.
By the way, you can download this resource to follow along with the visioning and constellation exercises in the episode.
Highlights from the podcast episode:
How do you start a thought leadership journey?
Since I launched this podcast, many of you have reached out to say, “OK I’m ready to start sharing my story. It’s scary AF. But I need to do this. I’ve been through some stuff, and came out the other side of it, and I think if I start building a platform around this, I can really make a difference.”
I so love to hear that because you can. And you will. But it’s hard to know where to even start.
I want to re-imagine and re-frame thought leadership, not just as a marketing strategy but really a way of being, where we consistently tap into our passion, experience, and credibility to build trust and community as we imagine and shape the future together, for the better.
It’s about being of service to others and freely giving away the information we have learned through our lived experience. Rather than ‘thought leadership’, I think of it as “lived leadership”.
If you have been in the trenches, working close to the problem you are trying to solve, or if you personally have gone through the thing that you’re working on eradicating, whether it’s a health issue like addiction or toxic work environments or another harmful systemic issue, you can lean into thought leadership – or lived leadership – to educate people about your cause and unique solution, and yes, get in the limelight but only because that light reflects back on your mission so that your audience can see the need, identify how they fit into supporting you, and become inspired to take action on your behalf.
Again, it’s about building trust and community as we imagine and shape the future together, for the better.
If something inside of you is starting to poke your heart, and it feels like you might be ready to start getting more visible, sharing your story, breaking down the way things have always been in your space, and helping others who are struggling through it now, and you just don’t know where to start, it all starts with imagination and a belief you can shape the future.
How to dream your vision statement, or north star
Life can cause us to numb out, to burn out, or to stop believing in our own ability to make shift happen. But Dreaming is a human impulse that drifts us towards a creative new future. By dreaming up fresh ideas, you can envision something new, rather than recycling ideas of “how we’ve always done it.”
That vision statement, or north star, is so important because it illuminates your pathway forward. It can inform how you communicate, where you spend your time, who you spend it with, and even the channels you use to become the most trusted, go-to person in your niche.
Once that vision statement materializes from the wispy vibes you have in your brain or your gut into an articulated, written down phrase, it’s like making a commitment. And one of my dear people, Faith Strong, told me this quote by Goethe that I think about all the time. Which is:
“At the moment of commitment, the entire universe conspires to assist you.”
How do you have to be to make this new world a reality? How do we have to heal ourselves to become the people who can make this happen?
James Clear in Atomic Habits, says “Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.” I’d add here: and a vote for the world you’re trying to build.
When I work with my clients the vision statement is the first thing we work on. Sometimes there’s some resistance there. People wonder if they can go down a different, quicker route to get more visible, like hiring a PR firm or running a paid ad campaign.
Those are all fine tactics, but if you don’t know where you’re going, what message are you even going to put out there? You’re essentially just buying attention, but you can’t buy trust.
Again, the outcome of thought leadership is trust.
My friend Rebekah is a facilitator and somatic coach, whose vision is of an interdependent world where every body is free because we’ve intentionally healed at scale through somatic practice of our values.
My friend Jenna is a collaborative strategic planning consultant for nonprofits, whose vision is a world where everyone’s voice has the power to inspire change.
My vision is: dismantling the boardroom table and instead, re-imagining the ultimate space of leadership as a campfire circle, where we safely share our vulnerable stories, build brave communities to huddle with for warmth, and where there is always room. This podcast was birthed out of that vision.
Your vision can serve as a filtration system
Maybe there’s a method or tactic that you’ve always done, but in actuality, it’s at odds with your vision.
Like – maybe you’re the leader of a nonprofit organization with a vision of ending food waste. Is a frivolous gala, where dozens dinners go to waste, the right method?
Or maybe you’re the leader of a coalition promoting equality. Is a tiered sponsorship for your conference the right method?
Or maybe you’re an advocate for justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. Is a speaking engagement with an all-white panel the right method, or a panel where you’re not paid for your labor in cash, only exposure, the right method?
Or would that method not even exist, if your vision that you’re working towards, came true?
This was such an a-ha moment for me. Do your actions reflect the new world you’re building, or are they remnants from the current, broken world that will keep you in the exact same place.
Food for thought.
Or on the other hand, maybe there’s a method that you’re not engaging with because makes you nervous. For me, it was always going Live or doing videos. I mean, there’s a reason I started a podcast and not a YouTube channel.
But then my friend Rachel asked me to do an Insta live with her. My friend Che asked me to do a video for her platform. And my immediate reaction is always no to videos, because I really hate doing them! Love these women, hate being on camera.
But then, pause. I wait. And I realize This method, or activity, is leading our world closer to our shared visions for the future. They are literally asking me to get vulnerable, build brave community with them, and inviting me into their circle. Where there’s room for me.
OK, I guess I’ll suck it up, put on my big girl panties and find my ringlight, and just do the thing even though it’s uncomfortable.
Growing through that discomfort is part of the work. The new world you’re building CAN’T be born without contractions. When you change, it all changes with you.
Your vision is ALSO a filtration system because the people who just aren’t for you, about you, and for the world you’re trying to make will filter out.
There are plenty of people I’m connected with who are AGAINST my vision. They don’t want the boardroom table to be dismantled. And of course when I say boardroom table, I’m really conjuring up the imagery of – there not being enough space for everyone. Competition and exclusion. Overwork, urgency, perfectionism, quantity over quality. Burnout.
Some people have a different experience of that table because it currently works great for them. And I can bless and release them.
But the people who are down, for it? Well, a powerful vision will help bring future friends, fans, and followers onboard to help create this new future with you. When you put your vision out there, people come out of the woodwork to lean in with you. They show up to invest in your vision and make it happen together. They invite you to their podcast, refer clients, ask to collaborate on summits, and it starts happening exponentially.
Your vision will evolve, and flow, and change, and transform. That’s OK – that’s life. And I noticed a change in my own work when I pulled it out of the ephemeral and onto paper.
How to develop your vision statement for thought leadership
This is the first exercise I have my clients do, and it cannot be rushed or forced. Marinate on the answers in an environment where you feel most creative, whether that is a nature walk, a soaking bath, or a potluck and discussion with the friends who know you best.
Remember – your vision should scare you a little bit – it’s a BIG DEAL! It won’t happen over the next few months or years, more like decades. You may not even see it happen in your lifetime. But simply rolling a snowball down a hill can become an avalanche that covers a lot of ground.
So, along with your vision is a mission usually. If the vision is the why you do what you do, the mission is the how. But instead of talking about that specifically, I want to cover something I’ve noticed is sometimes missing from this process.
Mapping out your constellation (trends and co-conspirators)
Your vision is a north star. It guides your path. But your star fits into a greater constellation. Constellations and sky maps have helped people navigate the world for thousands of years. By putting bright stars together in recognizable patterns, those stars are more easily found in the night’s sky. Assigning meaning and mythology to them makes them even more recognizable.
Your constellation is made up of your adjacent community and the bigger galaxy of those you have not yet met, but can actually make your vision shine even brighter. It can help inform your mission, and strategy for your work to become even more recognizable and discoverable.
By knowing where you are aligned in relationship to this greater constellation, you can align with trends (or go against them) to further your work, amplify your voice, and shine brighter.
This might seem like a lot of work that takes up a lot of time. Getting the answers to these questions require reaching out to people and having real conversations, but …. that is literally the work of building community and trust. Show up. Understand what’s already being done, so that when you do get clear on your mission, you can do it in a unique and new way.
So to wrap up, getting clear on your vision is the first thing I’d work on as you practice thought leadership. And before coming up with the mission, start piecing together your constellation so your vision makes sense as part of it, and you can shine even more brightly together.
And lastly, on a daily basis, hourly basis, sometimes second by second basis, take the brave action of embodying your vision – especially when it’s hard or goes against how we’ve always done things – because that what it takes to build trust and community as we imagine and shape the future together, for the better.
As I was developing my own vision, I also created some guiding principles of who I needed to practice being as I leaned into thought leadership. It might be helpful for you too, and feel free to try these on for yourself. They help me embody the type of leadership I’m trying to re-envision for everyone. And it starts there.
I adore you, appreciate you, and know you can do this. We’ll do it together. Until next time, thanks so much for listening.
Resources from this episode:
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