A few weeks ago, as I detailed (and by detailed I mean logically explained and then cried over) the challenge that 2017 has been, my friend + life coach Katie said two things that were completely unexpected.
1. You seem burned out. Cynical. Like you’re not into your work anymore.
2. You need to be a thought leader.
Let me use that in a sentence for you: You need to stop writing how-to posts, because you’ve already done enough of that and you don’t seem to be enjoying it anymore, and start being a thought leader.
To which I replied . . .
My brain immediately rejected the words thought leader as egotistical and narcissistic because people who refer to themselves as thought leaders are generally assholes on stage with a Britney Spears mic, right?
To convince myself it wasn’t a ridiculous idea (because I trust Katie and deep down I knew she was right), I tried to think of some thought leaders who do not appear to be assholes and whom I actually admire. People like Seth Godin, Brené Brown, Sophia Amoruso, and Mindy Kaling.
Then I laughed even more…because there’s no way I’m good enough to have the same descriptor as those people.
I always tell other bloggers and business owners that they need to position themselves as an expert, even if they don’t feel very expert-y. Committing to what you know and what you believe in and sharing it with authority (even when hitting publish is scary) is a big part of being successful at anything. You can’t be half in and expect your audience, readers, and clients to go all the way just because you say they should.
Yes, jump. It will be totally fine. I’ve never done it, but I’m sure you won’t feel a thing!
So why does saying I’m an expert feel OK, but being a thought leader is like, “whoa whoa whoa, let’s not go overboard!”
Because I immediately wonder what people will think if I’m posting my thoughts about blogging and not specific, actionable tips. I worry that a title like that comes with a responsibility I might not be ready for. It means that people are listening to me, paying attention, and taking action based on my words. It means that there is an expectation of continued learning and evolution on my part (aka more work). And it means that I’m going to be more opinionated, which makes it likely some people will fall on the opposite side of that opinion and will tell me, potentially not very nicely (because the internet).
But here’s the thing…someone referred to me as a thought leader in a comment on one of my recent blog posts, so whether I’m ready for it or not, I’m already there.
Apparently my blog and my business moved ahead and my mindset decided the next step was scary and stayed put. So now, like the phrase “dress for the job you want,” I need to get into the mental space for the job I not only want but the one I apparently have.
To get some thought leader-y vibes going and move the needle on my mindset, I’m soaking in the experiences and histories of women who went after what they wanted and made space for other women to come along with them. (Because that’s what we’re going for here if you hadn’t already noticed.)
Here’s what I’ve been reading, watching, and stalking on Instagram . . .
Diana Vreeland (editor-in-chief of Vogue ‘63-’71): documentary on Netflix: The Eye Has to Travel
Sheryl Sandberg (COO at Facebook): her book Lean In made me want to get my big girl CEO pants on
Elaine Welteroth (editor-in-chief at Teen Vogue @elainewelteroth): revamped the magazine to be socially conscious + prove teens can be into fashion and politics
Joan Didion (journalist + writer): documentary on Netflix: The Center Will Not Hold
Jen Gotch (founder of ban.do @jengotch): being a badass boss while completely open about her depression and anxiety
Tess Holliday (model + author @tessholliday): smashing fat shamers + the patriarchy daily
Apparently, I like my thought leaders political and fashionable!
I know this list is short and totally lacking in diversity, so leave a comment and tell me your favorite lady thought leaders to follow. They don’t have to be celebrities or CEOs or blog about blogging/business—I need some peeps in other niches to follow too!
I’m also interested to know if you have—or have been thinking about—stepping up into a role that you aren’t sure you’re ready for, and how you’ve been mentally navigating that transition. Because even though I’m embracing being a thought leader and sticking to publishing something new every week, I’m definitely still nervous every time I hit publish.