What should a thought leadership program include?
How do you structure thought leadership? From creating a forum for engagement with participants to focusing on cutting-edge topics, here are 16 answers to the question, “What one necessary element of a thought leadership program at a company?”
- Create a Forum for Engagement With Participants
- Envision the Future for Maximum Exposure
- Show the Organizational and Personal Impacts as Well as Practical Results
- Include Tools for Industry Prediction
- Let the Program Show and Value Authenticity
- Base the Program on a Well-Planned and Researched Strategy
- Equip People to Practice Self-Awareness
- Provide Direct Structure and Mentorship
- Focus on Growth
- Ensure Consistency
- Develop Collaboration With Senior Leadership
- Include Goal-Tracking for Consistency
- Foster the Culture of Listening
- Build in a Clear Call-to-Action
- Ensure the Program is Relevant
- Focus on Cutting-Edge Topics
Create a Forum for Engagement With Participants
There are many aspects of a proper thought leadership program. Among them Engaging with the participants is a must. This helps to clear out any doubts and bring light to new ideas. Besides, the main point of a thought leadership program is to inspire new and effective ideas. A lot of the time leadership programs don’t have an active forum which doesn’t produce the most optimal results. By adding a place where the program participants and coaches can hangout you can make sure the learners get to know the leaders and see their non-formal self. Plus it helps to get quick responses which might not be possible with just content & live meetings.
Joel Philips, Founder, Home Guide Corner
Envision the Future for Maximum Exposure
Imagining your thought leadership program a year, or two years into the future, can ensure that everything you create will serve a greater purpose. For instance, if your program includes a blog article every month, envision each one as a chapter that you can compile into a book. Envision what the core theme and title would be, then break that down into 12 distinct topics. Throughout the year, as you publish each ‘chapter’ as part of your blog you can also add supporting stories and case studies. By the end of the year you’ll have a ready to publish book, ebook, or white paper that will give you greater thought leadership authority.
Show the Organizational and Personal Impacts as Well as Practical Results
Training programs to develop leadership vary in complexity, cost, and style. Coaching and mentoring are two ways of development often used to guide and establish leaders regarding their skills and confidence. Thus, one of the key elements of a thought leadership program is to point out its impacts. It is crucial to explain how the employee’s skills contribute to the business’s success and benefits. Present the organizational, personal, and practical impacts. For the organizational impact, the program should show what is expected from the deliveries. Personal impact signals how leadership development increases teamwork capacity (managing conflicts and developing emotional intelligence). Finally, the practical impacts show how leadership contributes to business growth.
Include Tools for Industry Prediction
Although predicting the trends of the industry can be challenging, it can be quite an important skill for a thought leader to have. While original ideas are the basis of thought leadership, it’s also crucial to stay connected to the pulse of the industry. This is why it can be a great idea to help the participants of thought leadership programs to merge both of these aspects if you want them to truly thrive.
Let the Program Show and Value Authenticity
There are many factors that contribute to a thought leadership program, but one of the most important, in my opinion, is authenticity. To be perceived as a trustworthy source of information, your subject matter must be credible and your message must be consistent.
Your audience must also believe that you are sincere in your desire to assist them and are not simply attempting to promote them something. Trust and credibility take time to build, but without them, you’re no leader and you most certainly don’t warrant lecturing others.
Base the Program on a Well-Planned and Researched Strategy
A thought leadership program at a company should be created with a clear and concise content strategy. This means that before developing any content or launching any campaigns, the team should take the time to define what topics they want to cover, what tone they want to strike, and who their target audience is. Once established, it becomes much easier to produce relevant and engaging content that will help position the company as a thought leader in the industry. It’s also important to have strong distribution channels in place so that the content can reach as many people as possible.
Equip People to Practice Self-Awareness
One trait that all successful thought leaders have is that they are self-reflective. This means that they have the ability to stop and reflect on their actions, qualities, thoughts and failures. By extension, self-reflection allows us to adequately practice self-evaluation, and both of these are key qualities for building thought leadership. Any quality thought leadership program will have to encourage and equip people to practice self-awareness, as well as offer them practical tools to do so.
Provide Direct Structure and Mentorship
An effective thought leadership program goes beyond inspiring with new ideas, but also provides direct structure and mentorship for those willing to dedicate themselves to understanding the domain. This is done in a multitude of ways, the best of which are rooted in collaboration through team problem solving and top down instruction. When thought leadership programs are set up in this way, you set yourself up to win in the long term by empowering the next generation of thought leaders to grow and learn together.
Focus On Growth
Thought leadership with a keen focus on helping your audience reach their goals is one essential element of making sure a company is aligned with its audience. Any successful program needs to focus on growth to establish a history of strategies, practices, wins, and losses to base future adjustments on. A healthy foundation of insight is one of the most important elements of a thought leadership program.
As the owner of a growing business, I’ve found that there’s one thing that’s absolutely essential for a thought leadership program: – consistency. It can be tempting to change things up frequently in order to stay ahead of the curve, but the truth is that consistency is key. Your audience needs to be able to rely on you for accurate and timely information. If they don’t feel like they can trust you, they’re not going to bother paying attention to what you have to say. So, if you want to establish yourself as a thought leader, make sure you’re being consistent in your message and your delivery. It might not be the most exciting approach, but it’s definitely the most effective.
Develop Collaboration With Senior Leadership
Much is made of “exposure” to senior leadership as a significant perk when hiring people into growth-track middle management roles. But the ambiguity of such exposure is not a focused enough training strategy to cultivate the kind of mindset and knowledge base required of a thought leader. Direct and democratic collaboration with senior leadership is one of the surest tracks to fostering the insightfulness and intellectual breadth of anyone contributing to a company’s insight and self-understanding.
At my executive search firm, directors and managers are strongly encouraged to work upward with our founder and downward across levels and functions to produce high-quality white papers, surveys, and market studies. The best way to develop a culture of thought leadership is through true collaboration and deep ownership at all levels of an organization.
Include Goal-Tracking for Consistency
One of the lesser-planned aspects of a thought leadership program is not only goal planning, but strategic planning on how you’re going to align your program with your actual end goals. Looking even further at how I’ve experienced business plans immediately branch out from their original goals once coming into practice, I can’t stress enough how important it is to have an actual goal-tracking system in place so that any plan you implement does not stray from the intended outcome (whether that’s business or leadership related).
Dawn Wood, HR Manager, Woodyatt Curtains
Foster the Culture of Listening
An ideal thought leadership program promotes a culture of listening within the organization. It encourages leaders to build trust and authentic relationships with their employees, ensuring everyone’s voice is heard and understood. It should also empower people to be brave in taking risks and creative in performing their tasks. That said, the aim of thought leadership is not just equipping current leaders with the expertise to further their careers. It should also be a platform for collaboration and sharing best practices to influence employees to become the best in their respective fields.
Build in a Clear Call-to-Action
Having a good call-to-action in your thought leadership program is necessary to engage the audience. This could differ depending on the situation. Suppose, you wish to invite the audience to your event, attach an invite link. If you want to start a conversation about their likes and dislikes, ask questions. If you wish for people to know more about your company, attach your credential. This can not only help you increase leads, but also find the target audience. Making this a part of your digital marketing strategy will also guarantee a sale. In the end, you need to make the entire process of letting the customer know about you easier. The CTA will ensure that your virtual market is secured by itself when the customer reaches your website. Just make it creative enough to garner their attention, and you have a sure-shot opportunity right there.
Ensure the Program is Relevant
Thought Leadership programs are similar to workshops. I love to engage with my teams and center it around them and their experiences. My experience in thought leadership programs has taught me that the most fundamental element of a successful and engaging program is relevance. Relevance sets the tone for everything. It draws your audience in and allows them to engage with the material best. It should connect to their role, industry, goals and circumstances in the world. An example is discussing complex customer relations with a recent graduate. The discussions should all be relevant but also unique. These should be current topics of discussion with a unique and specific company perspective. Discussing scandals in the finance and consulting world is highly relevant. It opens the floor to methods of combatting and how our company can prevent and create a healthy transparent work environment with leadership in mind.
Focus on Cutting-Edge Topics
One element I find is necessary when it comes to thought leadership programs is focusing on cutting-edge topics. It’s important to be able to show that your company is up-to-date on the latest trends, so that you can gain the trust of potential customers. This way, they’ll know that they can rely on you for expert advice when it comes to making decisions about their business.
Effective thought leadership programs should always be forward-looking, so that companies can stay ahead of the competition. They should also be flexible, so that they can adapt to changes in the market quickly and discussing cutting-edge topics will help with that. If you can show that your company is keeping up with the latest trends, then you’ll be able to gain the trust of potential customers and grow your business.
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