Four Questions to Build your Thought Leadership Brand

June 15, 2022

Podcast Episode 14: Four Questions to Build your Thought Leadership Brand

“This podcast has made me RICH! The wealth of experience derived knowledge, the heartwarming inspiration, and treasure chests of wisdom Tania and her guests pour out each episode have illuminated pathways to success and delight I didn’t even know existed.” Candace said

Keshia says, “Tania truly understood the assignment. I binge listened to the first three episodes and can’t wait for to the next.”

Vani said, “With this podcast, she has taken it one step further and given us a shot glass of transformative thinking.”  

Thank you, siblings, for your kind words. I read every review and hold them close to my heart. Would you take a moment to leave a review for this podcast on Apple Podcasts? I’d love to share it in a future episode!

OK, let’s get it going. 

Highlights from the podcast episode: 

What is thought leadership and why does it matter?

You know, now that I’ve done about a dozen podcast interviews, I’ve noticed certain questions always come up when I get into conversation with my guests. While I don’t know exactly what I’m going to ask when I’m going into the conversation, my questions tend to follow a pattern and I realized – I am asking them about the key points of how they express their thought leadership. 

And the reason I wanted to dedicate a solo episode to that, is because if you ask yourself these questions, you’ll be well on your way to having the building blocks of your own thought leadership brand. 

Let me back up a split second. What is thought leadership and why does it matter? For sure, it can be a fuzzy or intangible concept, especially when compared against other marketing or business growth strategies. And that’s why I consider it more than a marketing strategy, it’s actually a way of being.

So to me, thought leadership is 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.

There’s an action oriented quality to this, right? Subject matter experts KNOW a lot, but they’re not necessary bringing a movement forward. Influencers are KNOWN by a lot of people, but they’re not necessarily doing anything for good, with that power or limelight. 

I’m recording this on June 1, 2022 and honestly, the world has really sucked lately. The news is coming at us fast. Of course we feel discouraged. But to me, bite-sized thought leadership actions thwart hopelessness. It reminds us that there is always something we can do, even if it’s sharing a human experience with one person in our community to inspire action.   

I actually just reached out to my upcoming LinkedIn VIP Day client I have scheduled at the end of this week, and said, “Hey, I get it if you’d like to reschedule. I know things have been really hard. Just let me know if you want to push it back a few weeks. All good either way.” And she responded back, “Thanks for your concern, but I’m good to go. The same reasons for postponing are the same reasons that the time is right 🙂 

I was like, …. “Damn! She’s right.” The same reasons for postponing are the same reasons that the time is right. 

Sharing your origin story (or what you’ve grown through)

The time is right because our stories matter. They break through inertia. They help us lean forward. They create a rumbling and mobilize hope inside people. They band people together and remind us we’re deeply connected, during a time of great divide.  They remind us that we’re human, if we’ve dissociated to survive in a world that keeps trying to dehumanize us. 

I can’t say this enough. That’s why I reject the boardroom table as the ultimate leadership space and instead, want to replace that concept with the campfire circle. Because that is where we share our stories to build trust, and create community. 

So that’s why the first question I ask all my guests is: “What have you grown through to become the guide you are today?”

I got that from Andi Long, my friend, nonprofit founder, and previous guest. It sounds better than just “Tell me your story,” right? But it’s the same deal: what experiences have you had that cement your credibility and deepen your passion? By the way, I’m not talking about your degree or any fancy letters next to your name. I don’t really care about that. More than likely, your clients or dream audience members don’t really care about that either. 

I want to know about what lived experiences you endured and dreamed through and worked your way out of, because you now have a roadmap to share with other people. 

And the funny thing too, that you’ll notice as you start sharing your personal brand story or origin story, is that it’s about you, but it’s bigger than you. It contains the pieces that motivate other people to join you on behalf of your shared vision. 

OK, so that’s the first question. It’s always about your story. What have YOU grown through to become the guide you are today? If you haven’t, take some time to let that rise up for you. 

And because I have spent my 10,000 + hours helping women craft their origin story, I can probably guess some of the gremlins that are running into the room right now. 

Like, what if my story is too boring. Tania can ask people about their story because she invites cool people on her podcast. But I’m just little old me. Who cares about my story? 

But listen, there’s someone in your audience right now looking for their community, and to feel something greater than themselves that tugs on their own deeper passion, and why. Even if it’s one person. Think of that ripple effect! 

And they’re going to LOVE your story and resonate with it and feel an affinity for you and feel known and seen and get excited about what you two can create together!    (By the way – I have co-written hundreds, possibly thousands of people’s brand stories and I have never heard a boring story. Not even once.) 

Or – the other angle of that – it’s too much. People will think I’m weird. Or feel sorry for me. My story is too big. 

The TOO MUCH part is interesting.  I understand having to cut out parts of myself and codeswitch to fit in. So, it can be difficult to break that habit and show up authentically. It might not have been safe once upon a time at your corporate job to do that but maybe now you make the rules and influence the culture. 

What I can say, is as you practice getting 1% more uncomfortable with your story, in safe and brave spaces that allow you to do that, really magical things happen as you show up as yourself.  

Or maybe – I don’t belong in the limelight. This work is about the people I serve. That’s such a nonprofit thing to say, btw. 

And what I want to say to that is someone out there needs what you have to offer, and they can’t see you right now. Maybe it’s that person that you serve, but you’re lost in the noise, and they can’t find you. Who is the person who needs to hear your story, because it will motivate them towards taking helpful action?  Take a moment and think about that person, really visualize them in your mind. You’re in part, sharing your story for them to experience the same transformation you did. Because so often, we are serving the person we once were. Or the family of the person we once were

So shine – and remember when you step into the limelight, it reflects light back onto your mission – the reason you do what you do. 

Then we chat about whatever comes up, because that’s the other thing about stories, they always make people say tell me more, and spark that relationship in a new way.

Uncovering your unique, transformative framework

Another thing I’ve started to ask over the last couple of episodes: “Is there a framework you use to bring your people through a transformation?” And that’s a specific thought leadership thing. Denise Brousseau explained this beautifully in her podcast episode with me. Which makes sense because she is The Thought Leader on Thought Leadership. Very meta. 

But she essentially talks about thought leadership as a relay race. We’re working on huge, generational curses, folks. Like poverty, homelessness, racism, mental health issues, and sometimes many intersectional ones at the same time. They may not be resolved in our lifetime. But we’re just runners in a relay race. When we create frameworks to package up our expertise to provide instruction and inspiration to others, whether now or in the next generation, that’s action oriented thought leadership.  

So, consider – do you have a unique way of working with people, or bringing them through a transformation that provides a shortcut, so they don’t have to figure it out themselves? Something else to noodle on. 

A vision directs your thought leadership

I also ask about vision. I did a whole, full solo episode about the power of vision and actually, even though that’s the last question I ask folks, I think this is where you need to start. This is the piece around re-imagining, and identifying how you’re trying to change the world for the better. Everything else falls into place from there. 

There’s a parable about 3 stonecutters that demonstrates the power of vision. 

Imagine three stonecutters sitting in front of a HUGE block of granite. They each have a hammer and a chisel, working away at the stone in front of them. It appears that all three of them are doing the same thing, cutting the slab. 

You ask the first stonecutter what they’re doing, and they say, “Oh I’m carving stone.” They’re all about the task. 

You ask the second stonecutter what they’re doing and they say, “Well, I’m carving stone to build a wall.” They at least, have a mission they’re working towards.  

You ask the third one, and they say, “I’m carving stone that will build a cathedral, where my community will gather for worship.”   They are vision-oriented.

And so, the activity is the same. So many of us as social impact leaders are doing similar things. We’re raising money, or building relationships, or helping our clients. But the difference with the third stonecutter is they consistently relate their day-to-day back to a bigger vision or north star. They can see, embody and hold a larger narrative that inspires everyone they come across. 

And that’s what thought leadership does – inspires relationship, trust, and community. So, most of my other questions that I ask on my podcast interviews, are about community. 

Nurturing a community instead of an audience

This whole thing is about community. You know, I knew I wanted to have a podcast before I even launched my business. It’s why I picked the website template I did, and why my husband bought me a podcast mic to celebrate the birth of my biz. 

But the idea of the pod was – and honestly still is – not super clear. It’s kind of a vibe. But at the end of the day, this podcast is about breaking down the self-limiting beliefs we’ve been conditioned with by an oppressive, dominant culture that doesn’t want our stories and voices to be heard, because when we do get visible we break the status quo. We change the culture. We re-imagine the world. Brave thought leadership takes a certain level of risk and brings out fear. Sometimes, real fear of harm, depending on the issue we’re taking a stand for. 

What I know for sure is that in order for oppression to exist, the oppressed must internalize the oppression, feel bad about themselves to the point where they distrust their own voice, and their own truth. And I think the best way to overcome those feelings of separation, of isolation, of feeling like we’re the only, like we don’t belong, or that we feel like a fraud – is to build brave community. 

I’m experimenting with this now. I just built a follow up community for my LinkedIn VIP Day clients. It’s truly an experiment, in – how do we build trust? How do we support each other and hold each other accountable? How do we practice brave thought leadership together, and stay consistent? How do we spark change when things get HARD.  How do we ebb and flow through the waves of vulnerability as we share these stories and get emotionally naked on LinkedIn? That’s a fun phrase.  It’s turning into a secret society of women who have got each other’s back. It’s fun. It’s small, intentionally, because relationships move at the speed of trust (shout out to adrienne maree brown.) And we’re playing with it. 

But you could try building your own accountability community too! Text 2 or 3 business baes and hype each other up around getting visible. Comment on each other’s LinkedIn posts. Get together and brainstorm what you’re going to post or talk about that week.  Find people to hold you as you do this vulnerable work. 

The more and more I do this, I realize how key that is. And starting small is not just OK, it’s actually best.

To wrap up this brain dump, I wanted to talk about some of the key pieces of thought leadership that you can apply to your own self.

  • What have you grown through to become the guide you are today?
  • What is your unique framework or roadmap you bring people through?
  • What’s your big, dreamy vision for the future?
  • How are you building community?

I invite you to noodle on those questions and if you’re up for it, reach out to me and let me know what emerged. I’m all about it and would love to cheer you on. 

Resources from this episode:

14 LinkedIn Content Prompts: Build your personal brand and thought leadership, show up for your target audience and grow your know-like-trust factor with your professional audience on LinkedIn. 

Demystify LinkedIn and Thought Leadership with Tania

The people who can make your social impact dreams come true are on LinkedIn. They’re probably even connected with you already! Our LinkedIn VIP Day is a 1:1 intensive for purpose-driven women who are ready to take their place as the trusted, go-to voice in their niche. 

To stand out as you stand up for your mission. Learn more or apply here. 

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I'm Tania, your new cheerleader & confidante.

Let's give your work the platform it deserves. I consult with a hybrid approach, guiding thought leadership personal branding strategy with support in dismantling imposter syndrome.

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