Rebel Uprising Podcast

What is a Thought Leader Really? (And Could You Be One Already?)

When you hear the phrase thought leader, what do you think of? How does it make you feel?

Is thought leader something that you aspire to, or is it a phrase that makes you roll your eyes guys? Is it something that you push away? Is it something that you think, oh, that's okay, not for me. It's not for people who have a business like mine.

But what if it could be?

What if the way the online world has been thinking about thought leadership is all wrong and what if you are already a thought leader and you just haven't realized it yet?

Now what the heck am I talking about?

Well, strap in, because it is time for us to take back the phrase thought leadership and redefine what it is all about.

On the first official episode of the Rebel Uprising Podcast you'll hear:

  • My take on thought leadership and why I believe every single person can be a thought leader
  • The difference between a thought leader and an influencer
  • How you're probably already taking steps towards thought leadership, it's easier than you think

If I know one thing, you're ready to package up your big ideas, your skills, expertise, and your vision into a one of a kind message that attracts the right people to your business and grows your audience and helps you make more money while making more of an impact. You my friend, are a thought leader.

Tune in or read through the transcript below

Resources mentioned in this episode

3 Word Rebellion book

Episode 192 of the Rebel Rising Podcast

Seth Godin

Simon Sinek

Adam Grant

Fyre Festival Documentary

Marie Forleo

Rachel Hollis

Episode 205 of the Rebel Rising Podcast

3 Word Rebellion messaging intensive

3 Word Rebellion pricing and services guide

When you hear the phrase thought leader, what do you think of?

How does it make you feel? Is thought leader something that you aspire to, or is it a phrase that makes you roll your eyes guys? Is it something that you push away? Is it something that you think, oh, that's okay. Not for me. It's not for people who have a business like mine.

But what if it could be?

What if the way the online world has been thinking about thought leadership is all wrong and what if you are already a thought leader and you just haven't realized it yet?

Now what the heck am I talking about?

Well, strap in, because it is time for us to take back the phrase thought leadership and redefine what it is all about.

This is exactly what we're going to do in this first episode of the Rebel Uprising Podcast.

Rebel, if you're a longtime listener of this show, you know that one of my big biases is that I believe that everyone is a thought leader, and yes, that means you. In fact, I didn't even realize that I had this bias until I got a one star review of the 3 Word Rebellion book. I tell this story in detail on this episode of the Rebel Rising Podcast, where I tell you that everyone is a thought leader, but basically this man said that I lived in some kind of Twitter verse LA LA land, where I think everyone is a thought leader, but it's true, that is my worldview.

When I interact with someone, I really see them as someone who has thoughts in their head that are worthwhile, that are worth sharing. But what I've realized is that in the business world that we occupy, we define thought leadership as something very different and something that, in my opinion, I don't think is quite right.

So what is a thought leader any way or how are we currently defining what a thought leader is? And what's the difference between a thought leader and an influencer? 

A thought leader is usually a status that is both stowed upon someone by an audience, like someone says you are a thought leader got to be chosen. Usually it's somebody with a huge audience, a traditionally published book, does a lot of speaking and typically a white dude, right? So we think about thought leaders as being Seth GodinSimon SinekAdam Grant. Usually people like this. They have original ideas, some type of scholarship that they talk about.

So that's what a thought leadership is. It's easy to see why we can say, oh man, yeah, thought leadership isn't for me, that doesn't look like me. There's no place for me in that. I am not a white dude with a big following.

Then, of course, there is this sphere of being an influencer. When I was watching the Fyre Festival Documentary, they were saying that an influencer is someone who monetizes their personality. I have lots of thoughts about people who monetize their personality, but that's probably out of the scope of this podcast episode.

So I think about people who monetize their personality and for some reason, it's a lot of once again, white people and both men and women come to mind. So people like Marie Forleo who are repackaging knowledge. B School is pretty much repackage knowledge and she's selling herself, really her lifestyle in the big city of New York. She's selling her personality. Or somebody like Rachel Hollis, who I think is probably the biggest example of an influencer. She's not an expert in relationships, and yet she was selling having a great relationship before her divorce. Now she's selling a book about it, what to do when your life falls apart unexpectedly. Lovely. If you're following her on Instagram, people frankly aren't buying it.

So an influencer is really monetizing their own identity and who they are. So there's nothing, there's not that original scholarship there. We pay influencers money because we're buying into their lifestyle. We want to be like them. They aren't really teaching us anything new or original they're repackaging other people's ideas, but we're really buying into who they are. Whereas thought leaders, they are teaching us something new and original they're packaging up their ideas and their message and selling that scholarship instead. Still, with how we traditionally define thought leadership, you have to be chosen and apparently white and male. For me. I don't really think that that's what a thought leader is.

So let's redefine what a thought leader is. I like to break down the words, right? So a thought is just an idea that we have. For me when you have a thought or an idea too, that can help people or change people or shake up your industry, then that can be really valuable, right? When you have something rolling around in your head that can make a difference, then that thought can be really valuable. That can be something worth packaging  and talking about and building a business around.

Then a leader is somebody who advocates for their thoughts to a group of people. That group of people can be large or it can be small. But at the end of the day, you make the choice to lead with your thoughts. You choose yourself. You see how the thoughts, the ideas, your knowledge, your expertise, your skills, and experience you see already how they can impact other people because of the work you do and use it.

You think, hey, these ideas that I have, they're worthwhile, they're worth something they're valuable. They can help people and you believe your ideas matter. So you go and you advocate, so you are leading with your thoughts and that makes you a thought leader. It becomes this self belief and that your ideas matter.

So you begin to advocate for your ideas and you want them to get out into the world and to spread. And that's what a thought leader is. Somebody who has an idea that matters, that's going to make a difference and that can help people and they advocate for that idea.

Now, there might be some people who are listening saying things like, but Michelle, you said that thought leadership has to be original. And I don't feel like my ideas are necessarily original.

Yes. Thought leadership is original, but the bar for originality is actually a lot lower than you think. So when I think about it, original ideas really come from how we combine our efforts, knowledge, skills, and expertise together to produce something new. I think about how existing ideas and knowledge that are already out there to improve upon, to create something that is new.

A few examples…one that I always love to talk about is Steve Jobs and the iPhone. I always say that people like to say that the iPhone revolutionized technology and our world. But the iPhone really wasn't all that revolutionary of an intervention, because if you think about what Steve Jobs did, he looked at the iPod, which was a device where we listened to music and he looked at our flip phones and he thought, huh, I wonder if we could combine these two devices. How cool would that be? If we could just take your phone and the place where you listen to music and make them one thing, what would that be like?

See, combining two different ideas into one. Even with my own work with the 3 Word Rebellion and creating that messaging framework. What I saw in social movements was having a message that was succinct and can be communicated into three words. Then I saw successful entrepreneurs doing the same thing and I thought, hm, could I take the questions that come from social movements and use those questions and give them to entrepreneurs and business owners to see if I could help them come up with their core message that they could be known for. Could that work? And it did. That's how the 3 Word Rebellion was born. 

So it was me spotting patterns, or I even think about my interview that I did with Glenn Meier, a few episodes back. He is a lawyer, but he is combining the law with facilitation coaching to create a new way to look at the law, to put people over paper, to think about how the law can facilitate relationships.

So the bar for originality is actually low, how can you combine two main ideas together? How can you use the first law of improvisation to make original ideas? You are probably already a thought leader and you're not even realizing it and that's the beauty of it. So when we take back the phrase thought leader, we can say, yes, a thought leader looks like me. We can start seeing how our work and how our ideas that bring about results in business are really thought leadership.

One of the things we're going to start doing in the rebel uprising podcast is give you a space for reflection, to think about what I've said, how you want to apply it to your business (if you want to apply it to your business).

Today, the question I want you to think about, are you a thought leader hiding in plain sight to start this?

Think about how you feel about the term thought leader and why do you feel that way? And if you redefine the term thought leader to really be about advocacy for your ideas, does that change the way you feel?

The second question I want you to think about is how are you combining your ideas, knowledge, skills, and expertise to bring about results for your clients, and how could that be thought leadership? 

I would love to know what you think. So feel free to reach out to me on Instagram, my DMS are always open. I would love to hear from you and I'd love to know what you're thinking on this topic.

Before we go, one of the biggest challenges a thought leader faces is describing and marketing the work you do in a way that the right people understand it and it makes them want to take action so that they experience the results that you uniquely get for your clients. That is why the Rebel Uprising Podcast is brought to you by the 3 Word Rebellion messaging intensiveYou're ready to package up your big ideas, your skills, expertise, and your vision into a one of a kind message that attracts the right people to your business and grows your audience and helps you make more money while making more of an impact.

I'd love to help you create that messaging. The first step is to grab the 3 Word Rebellion pricing and services guide because I would love to help you achieve more people experiencing the work you do, and the results that you can help them achieve.

Until next time, remember that you might be that thought leader hiding in plain sight. 

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