Alone or Unique – What makes you a thought leader?

Being alone and being unique are the closest of friends.

The tussle between fitting in and being part of the “in” group is not an easy one.  Helping individuals, brands, and organisations to stand out as the first among equals, is often the bread-and-butter work of a public relations professional. Doing this without alienating others and fitting into the community is a delicate dance. Attracting just the right amount of attention, for the right things and at the same time standing out from the crowd is what thought leadership is all about.

I keep hearing the line “We are trying to position Ms. Magnificent as a thought leader” or “We are doing this to build the profile of Mr. Majestic as a thought leader” and this is quickly followed up with the standard tool kit of LinkedIn posts, authored articles, speakership opportunities and the more recent flavours of hosting a podcast or doing a TEDx Talk. This may create some noise, or get some visibility, but it may not constitute thought leadership.

Being unique is what we often aim for. To stand out and shine. I often remind anybody willing to listen, “To be a ‘Thought Leader’ there must be an original thought, with which to lead”. An idea that is fresh and new, or a unique perspective… something that one believes in and cares deeply about. From this well of inspiration and courage, emerges true thought leadership.

I was reminded of the importance of finding your unique space last week when I heard my family raving about the food in a local Wayanad restaurant called ‘Raviettans Kada’ which is known for its kappa (tapioca) and pork. People are driving up from all over the area to sample Ravi’s fare. Building Thought Leadership is a bit like this tiny restaurant that has made a name for itself because it’s becoming really popular for this one dish. It does serve other stuff, but the draw is its pork preparations. Ravi is at the beginning of his journey towards becoming a thought leader when it comes to good food in the Wayanad. Maybe one day he will reach the iconic status of ‘Murugan Idli’ in the South or maybe not, but for sure he has found his unique space in the culinary landscape of Kerala. In Raviettan’s case, his food speaks loudly, so he does not need to manage his reviews and mind his P’s and Q’s. Maybe some of these problems will come his way as his popularity builds.

You have to stand out to fit in. Aim to be outstanding at something. Hopefully, it’s something you love and care about. Even better if that something can be of service to people around you.

Like I said at the beginning, being alone and being unique are close friends. If we all aim to find our uniqueness, why is it that many of us are not as willing to embrace being alone? Why do so many of us run towards one and away from the other? It’s like the’ Ying and Yang’ that fit so beautifully together. They are a package deal. Befriend being alone, befriend being uniquely and joyfully on your own. In doing this you will find where you belong and your ‘you-niquess’ will shine through. From this space, true thought leadership emerges. Not the manufactured mass-produced kind, but the kind that is authentic, slow-cooked, and draws a crowd, because it tastes special.

Once you have found your special dish, and you know you have something to offer the world, then the journey towards thought leadership begins. Stop following the crowd and the crowd will follow you.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Nikhil Dey
Nikhil Dey is Executive Director, Adfactors PR.

A trusted coaching and communications professional, Nikhil Dey is a certified life and leadership coach (International Coach Federation - ICF). Nurturing talent and helping clients achieve their goals is what makes him happy. He loves learning from students of communication, teaching courses and guest lecturing at various educational institutions. When he is not working you will find him on the tennis court or out for long walks with his family and four legged friends.

Previously he has held senior leadership positions at Weber Shandwick and Genesis BCW.

He can be reached on twitter @deydreaming

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