Become a thought leader in 3 easy steps
I stand in the front of a room full of strangers holding a piece of paper in my hands. I feel myself sweating through my pink shirt. (Hello, magenta armpits!)
I’m reading a true story from my life, talking for the first time about writing and publishing my most vulnerable newspaper article ever. It was a very public display. A big reveal, if you will.
Take a deep breath, I tell myself.
Still the best advice I can think of.
At the moment, I’m in a storytelling class. Every week a handful of people gather around a table, and we use a writing prompt to craft a little story. Then, one by one, we stand and share our stories out loud, without notes.
Class culminates in a performance attended by approximately 50 people. Anybody from town is welcome to come. This week, we’re allowed to read from notes because we’re polishing our final stories, the ones we’ll be performing.
(When you’re on stage, you’ve got to wrap up in 6-8 minutes.Chatting off the cuff is a recipe for rambling and running way overlong. So you write your story out ahead of time, then cut it down and memorize it.)
As I talk, I feel my body swaying back and forth.
I raise my eyes. People are smiling.
Now I’m getting into it. I’m having fun telling this story.
When I finish and sit down, a lawyer sitting across from me says, “Did you notice that when you got started, you were standing back in the shadows? But as you got more comfortable you stepped toward us, into the light?”
“No, I didn’t,” I say.
“Then when you got to the part of your story that obviously made you uncomfortable, you backed away again.”
I blink in surprise. I thought I was cool, but my body clearly felt differently.
“I know it’s scary,” he says, “but once you’ve stepped out like that, you can’t retreat again.”
Becoming a thought leader—the kind of person who shares ideas that influence other people’s lives—means you’ve got to speak your truth. It’s a lot like telling a story on stage.
It’s a 3-step process, really:
- Write down the biggest lessons you’ve learned in your career or personal life (plus the story of how you learned them).
- Reframe, edit, or make the connection between these lessons and how they benefit your audience.
- Share these stories and lessons in actual public. And don’t back away from the light.
Your voice might tremble. Your hands might shake. You might obsessively hit refresh, waiting for the troll apocalypse.
But guess what?
Every time you consciously choose to share the story you’d never thought you’d share, every time you surrender the personal truths you’ve earned through blood and fire, you step into your power. You tell the secrets other people are too scared to tell.
And that’s what leaders do.
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