Should “Thought Leaders” Be Banned?

Have you bumped into the phrase thought leader recently?

In the last few years this phrase, initially used to describe someone who was a stand-out authority and in-demand leader in a field, has appeared throughout entrepreneurial events and material.

As often happens this has become vastly overused and its meaning diluted.

To the point where it has become meaningless.

Any Tom, Dick or Harriet who has put pen to paper now seems to see themselves as a thought leader.

Yet most who seek the mantle of thought leadership appear to do very little original thinking—most of their material, if not all of it, is rehashed, regurgitated and repackaged from others.

The difference that makes a leader is…

Now there is definitely a place for easy introductions or simple breakdowns of complex areas, but this is simply the process of teaching and explaining, not thought leadership. Many little books tackle this challenge admirably. They distil methods, tools and strategies into bite-sized activities that can be tackled daily to gain excellent results.

Many of us would love to be seen as a leader in our field. The reality is that most of us simply won’t reach this position..

We cannot become a leader in our field by rehashing other people’s models or anecdotes. We cannot become a leader in our field by regurgitating reams of information and statistics. We cannot become a leader in our field by simply repackaging various approaches with new names or pretty design.

We cannot become a leader simply by layering a few anecdotes from our experience onto existing information.

We become leaders by evolving a vision that is unique, that is powerful, that is compelling and inspirational for others. We become leaders by sharing that vision in a way that enables others to get great results. We become leaders by being deeply thoughtful, sticking with the challenges of deep thought when others would rush away to seek simpler solutions.

Partners in thought and deed…

When we first started mPowr Publishing we already knew that books could be revolutionary, transformational and inspiring.

Since beginning to work with business coaches, consultants, trainers, speakers and entrepreneurs through Immersive Publishing we have consistently held out the challenge for authors to seek genuine leadership. When an author has a powerful desire to create a book, a vision, that changes the way the reader thinks, feels and acts then the work of thought leadership begins.

What a privilege to be involved in this journey!

Seeking genuine thought leadership? Then start the thinking here…

Different kinds of books – different results for your business

If you settled down to read The Lord of the Rings hoping to find out about space flights to Mars and the colonisation of distant planets you would be very disappointed.

Likewise, if you cuddled up with Steven Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People looking for a series of quick-win, instant-fix tools you would also be disappointed.

Each book is unique, has its own message, style, method of communication and purpose for the reader and for the author.

Yet, when business owners have heard that they should write a book to turn themselves into an authority in their field they are presented with a simple one-size-fits-all template.

Now, I’ll come back to the mistaken notion that writing a book somehow magically turns you into an authority at another time… For now, let’s see what many of those who are seduced into cobbling together an ‘authority’ book do.

They go through a simple brainstorming, listing, mind-mapping process which elicits their knowledge together with some anecdotal incidents. Next they structure this brain-dump into discrete chapters and then write up their book (within anything between a seven- to thirty-day process) and get it published.

After this, it usually joins the mass of other business titles that disappear into the aether.

Usually, the resulting books are between 80 and 120 pages long. They use quite big print and lots of white space. They claim to be authoritative guides but only have the content of a large pamphlet. They merely regurgitate common information and approaches together with a sprinkling of personal anecdotes that add no real depth to the material.

In the business publishing world in recent years many, many authors have thought they were creating an ‘authority’ book when they were merely going through a basic information-giving process.

Now, don’t get me wrong—there is a place for books which are created using a relatively simple template in a rather brief period of time. But they are not authority books.

They are marketing-oriented little books.

If the authors had sat down to create a simple, powerful book that would deliver great results for the reader then the brain-dump could be harnessed much more powerfully.

These little books can act as great introductions to your existing business and raise interest in your own skills and expertise. At first they seem quite insignificant, but they can deliver real results for the reader.

The padded-out pamphlet pretending to be an authoritative guide to everything about a topic delivers only frustration for the reader.

Before you begin writing your book get clear on what kind of book you want to write.

  • A little book that will be incredibly useful as a marketing tool and promotional tool for your existing business and services—sustaining your current business.
  • OR
  • An authority book that transforms the reader’s understanding of your field and delivers outstanding results for them, demonstrating your unique perspective and effectiveness—taking your business to the next level.

Just as there are places for The Lord of the Rings and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People there are places for the little marketing books and the meaty authority books.

Avoid the mistake so many other business people make, of thinking they’re making one when they’re really doing the other…

You Know You Want To…

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…but can’t find the time, money or energy to Write Your Book!

Authority publishing is an essential aspect of any modern SME business.

Every serious, savvy and trustworthy business needs to get its message out in the most powerful way possible. Amongst the marketing mix there is a way of demonstrating your authority that is more compelling and persuasive than any other.

The book is where an expert in their field reveals their authority; not only demonstrating their expertise and offering guidance to the reader, but also forming a relationship with your audience over many hours of interaction. This level of trust-building is of immense value to your business—it transforms your role from an expert in your field, to the leader in your field.

Overcome the challenge of less-competent competitors

Yet, your authority book is not simply about you and your reader; it is a powerful solution to the challenge of competitors who know less than you in your field, but are more willing to employ slick, usually slimy, sales and marketing techniques.

This not only loses you potential business, but damages the reputation of everybody in your field—when the sleek-marketeer-and-professional-novice doesn’t deliver.

Writing your authority title takes time, a lot of time and real commitment… and the frightening, yet absolutely vital, need to be bold in your narrative choices. Bland and generic business books are everywhere, saturating an already overcrowded arena.

To stand out you need to author something that is unlike anything else… something uniquely you!

This takes time and a commitment to learning how you match your authoring skills with your professional expertise.

Do you really want any weaknesses in your writing abilities to undermine the reader’s perception of your professional expertise? Yet, most wannabe business authors ignore this danger, forgetting that when the reader sees poor quality or boring text they also think that your expertise is of poor quality or uninteresting.

Yet, take the time to begin to match your writing skills with your field of expertise and you’ll stand out powerfully, for all the right reasons!

Your book… Your business!

With such a high commitment of effort, time and money, developing and writing your authority book is daunting and often perceived as an impossible goal. Thus, many well-meaning and excellent professionals regard authoring their authority book as second in line to running their business. Your book is not an addition to your business… it IS your business.

Every day you do not have a book to offer your potential clients is a day your business is gradually diverting away from success.

However, there is an alternative in the short term. This other option does not negate the need for an authority title, but it will buy you time, whilst you learn your new craft and get your authority title written.

If you are daunted… start with a little step, a little book…

The answer is a little book that demonstrates your expertise in a quick, easy to read and highly transportable way. As an introduction for your audience (and for yourself into the realm of authoring), the pocket-sized wealth of wisdom does something the authority book does not…

The little book becomes a daily pickup and delve, rather than a large time commitment for your reader. The power of the authority title exists with your reader investing a large amount of time reading it… they explore the many themes and stories within; they walk with you and learn to like you, trust you, learn lots more from you.

However, if someone is cold and unprepared, this hefty commitment of time can be a challenge and cause them to disconnect. If this happens, the authority book will never be read.

Pitch your little book just right and your new audience will get into the habit of taking it with them as a quick-fix reference and inspirational tool. As this habit forms and sticks with them, they will become desperate to read your next book… the authority title… and will be much more enthusiastic about spending time exploring your meatier efforts.

The empty promise: ‘Write your book in thirty days…’

The little book is so powerful as a temporary solution that many book coaches and media content gurus actually sell programmes that create little books that pretend to be authority titles. These are padded with extra pages, large font sizes and lots and lots of white space—something that makes the author appear to be overreaching and content-light.

Crafting a little book with finesse and an appreciation for what the book needs to achieve is a very different goal than writing a little book disguised as a bigger book!

One is intended to be a portable, quick win… The other is a temporary fix hidden behind the promise of a lasting solution… Are you prepared to stake your brand, your business and your livelihood on a bland, safe and throwaway Band-Aid?

The big idea behind the little book

Writing a little book brings great rewards. When you know how to sculpt and develop your book it can also be completed very quickly. So, if you are planning to write a book, make that book part of a longer-term, bolder strategy—a series of books that will achieve so much more for you and your business.