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13 Thought Leadership Mistakes That Can Tarnish Your Personal Brand

Expert Panel, Forbes Coaches Council

Forbes Source:

In recent years, thought leadership has become a popular method for building one’s personal brand. Whether you’re publishing your own pieces on LinkedIn or a blog, or contributing articles to respected business media outlets, writing authoritative, insight-driven content can help establish you as an industry expert.

While thought leadership efforts can be a big boost to your reputation when done right, they can also tarnish your personal brand if handled incorrectly. We asked Forbes Coaches Council members about the biggest mistakes business leaders make when building their brand through thought leadership. Their best answers are below.

1. Using 'I' Instead Of 'We'

I've seen many articles and have heard many speeches with "I do this," or "I've met with...," when, in reality, that thought leader is actually a manager with a whole team. Thought leadership often comes from the people you've worked with, the experiences, the learnings as a whole and your perspective. Don't forget the people around you who helped you become the thought leader you are today. - Joanne Markow, GreenMason

2. Having Too Broad Of A Focus

You have to pick your niche topics and focus on those. I have seen business leaders market themselves as thought leaders on an array of topics rather than centralizing their focus on two or three topics that they become subject matter experts in. As they say, the riches are in the niches, and thought leadership is no different. - Wendi Weiner, Esq., The Writing Guru

3. Publishing Poor Content

In the haste to join the publishing, content-producing crowd of their peers, I often see business leaders react by hastily producing an article or asking a ghostwriter to write material for them to keep up with the perceptions they are associated with. This reflexive response often leads to poor content and looks like an unplanned event. It diminishes the brand of you. - John M. O'Connor, Career Pro Inc.

4. Hiding Behind Credentials

Thought leadership has nothing to do with how many certifications and awards you have, so stop hiding behind letters and start addressing your client pain points. It has so much more to do with how you resonate and "see" what change your prospects are looking for in their life than where you went to school. We don't hire your degree -- we hire your heart. Be available. - Heather Pinay, Authentically: Business & Life Solutions

5. Sharing Theory Without Practice

Often, leaders focus on the theories and frameworks that underline a particular problem. But, most people look for insight into how to clarify and make sense of everyday complications and issues. The real value of thought leaders is in learning how to translate theories into practices that make a difference. - Rose Cartolari, Rose Cartolari Consulting

6. Being Too Negative

Thought leadership is a subjective science, where messages may potentially resonate differently with everyone. Delivering uplifting feedback that encourages and stimulates the desire to change within takes preparation. Individual daily happiness is a variable that makes an impact on creativity, inspiration and motivation. If your happiness levels are low, chances are your messages may be affected. - Rachel Lourdes Mestre, Marketing Muses

7. Not Aligning Your Content With Your Purpose As A Leader

There is a lot of buzz around being both a leader and a thought leader. Few people sit down and think about what each means for them and how the two work together. Why do you want to be a leader? What do you want to accomplish as a leader? What content helps support those objectives? Who is your audience for leadership and thought leadership? These are just a few questions to ask yourself. - Larry Boyer, Success Rockets LLC

8. Selling Yourself Too Hard

When marketing your expertise, potential followers will be turned off if you come across as too sales-y. Thought leadership is built by sharing your knowledge, leading-edge research and unique ways of solving problems -- not by directly selling yourself or your business. Know your audience and what they would like to learn. Engage people through insight, and start with unique solutions. - Loren Margolis, Training & Leadership Success LLC

9. Never Sharing Personal Failures

Leaders seeking to enhance their personal brands through thought leadership should remember there is strength in failures. Mistakes, mishaps and foibles are often teachable moments. In those bad times, we often learn some of our most important lessons about leadership, collaboration and innovation. Failing is human. Sharing failure stories reminds others that even big dogs have bad days. - Stacey Staaterman, Stacey Staaterman Coaching & Consulting

10. Serving Yourself Before Your Audience

A mistake business leaders make is focusing on serving themselves and their brand first. If your message and intention is not in service of the people you are trying to reach, they will tune you out -- and they should. Thought leadership efforts fall into one of two buckets: noise or value. The framework of every effort should be, "What do people need, and how am I delivering that to them?" - Tegan Trovato, Bright Arrow Coaching

11. Not Defining A Clear Message

Establishing yourself as a thought leader is a wonderful endeavor, but it’s not without its pitfalls. One pitfall I’ve had to overcome is a lack of clarity in my message. I’ve bounced back and forth between a focus on leadership coaching and a focus on business coaching, and it wasn’t until I successfully merged the two that I saw the growth I expected to see. - Dr. Stephen Kalaluhi, The StephenK Leadership Team

12. Trying To Be Someone You're Not

Many women leaders equate men and masculinity with good or more successful leadership. This becomes apparent when they start to develop a personal brand and are faced with the dilemma of artificially overshadowing their femininity with masculine traits in their branding and thought leadership. Do not try to be something you are not. You will only end up unhappy in the end. - Rosalee Laws, The Rosalee Laws Company

13. Not Sharing Your Story And Point Of View

You have a point of view and you are choosing to share it with everyone through thought leadership. Do some research. Make sure you have your own point of view, and don't forget to tell the story that has shaped your point of view. Thought leadership that lacks the story that formed your point of view will read like any another business textbook or article. Your readers won't connect with you. - Amy Douglas, Spark Coaching, LLC

©2019 Forbes Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.


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