Some of you may remember the commercials that would show people bending their ears to listen to Mr. Hutton? “When E.F. Hutton speaks, people listen,” was the slogan. It was the investment advice that was being given that everyone wanted to hear. While you may not be giving advice on stocks, bonds and investments, you are giving advice on CAD. Some of us wish that others listened more when we spoke. Some wish that those on our project would listen. Some wish that those in our office would listen. Some of us wish those in our firm would listen. And some wish that those in your industry would listen. When others listen, you become what is known as a “Thought Leader“.
Gaining a voice in your industry takes many years and includes many areas of exposure. Sometimes these efforts can be arduous and unfruitful, but often they are rewarding both for your company and for you.
The years of building and maintaining a reputation in your field can involve diverse areas of interaction with clients, vendors, coworkers, consultants, organizations and the media. Juggling the continual demand on your time to create, nurture and maintain a position of leadership can be taxing. You may often work many hours of unpaid, unnoticed and unrewarded personal time to expand your influence.
Knowing the exact blend of what it takes to become a thought leader is a delicate dance at best. Protecting your reputation and securing the respect of everyone is critical. The very breath of unethical behavior or conflict of interest can start hairline cracks in your edifice that, if not corrected, can topple the fragile house that you have built. Being a thought leader will expand your personal stature and the stature of the firm or groups you represent. It is a combination of both, you and any group you represent. If one falters, the other suffers. They are bound together and both profit from your efforts.
The possibility exists for some of these efforts to be seen with a negative slant that some might engender when not fully understood. It may be that they do not fully understand a perspective that you have taken or that the appearance of conflicts exist between your work within your firm and outside endeavors. To put this to rest, you must be fully devoted to your firm or group and advance their status. You in no way want to bring a bad light on your firm, your clients or your work.
Several areas that you may get involved in, when viewed properly, combine into a mixture that can place you at the top of your field and garners the respect of outsiders. These areas include speaking, writing, industry volunteerism, conference attendance, and having a web presence. I will outline these efforts and define the positive nature of each in the next few posts.