Karen Pierce is an experienced executive coach based in Arizona, US. Her company’s focus is on managing through change and uncertainty, and finding the path to success. Her weekly essays, published on LinkedIn, are largely aimed at leaders. However, leaders and thought leaders have much in common, and Karen’s ideas offer some intriguing insights for thought leaders. Here’s a sample of the ideas that might resonate.

People come first, then the company

Scott Knutson, a consultant working with Karen, explains that servant leadership can be defined very simply: if you put people first, and the company second, then you are a servant leader. He agrees that this may sound like heresy. However, all the evidence suggests that when a company looks after its people, the people look after the company. It’s exactly the same in thought leadership. You need to put the interests of your audience first to provide them with value. When you do that, the value is likely to be returned to you several times over.

In a post-COVID world, work is more about relationships

COVID changed an awful lot in our world—including how people think about and view work. The ‘Great Resignation’ shows us that people are prepared to leave jobs and try something new, and that they have re-evaluated their priorities. Karen suggests that the key for leaders in this new world is to think in terms of relationships. She offers some ideas for building relationships that may be extremely helpful for thought leaders, including making yourself vulnerable, and not assuming that you have all the answers. Co-creation with your audience is a useful option for experts in all kinds of areas.

Business should be personal—and that means bringing yourself to work

In a short essay, Karen highlights the importance of understanding what drives you to get out of bed and go to work each day. She suggests that leaders need to share this information with others as a way to inspire them. You should tell others your story, and hope that they embrace your ‘why’ and share your commitment. In thought leadership, you also want people to commit to your ‘why’. We know that storytelling can help you to achieve this. The key is to find the right stories, and tell them in the right way.

Coaching is an essential tool for success 

Coaching is a crucial skill for leaders. Asking the right questions, sharing knowledge, and empowering people to solve their own problems are essential aspects of creating organisational resilience. However, Karen argues that you have to approach coaching in the right way. Similarly, thought leaders also have to find the right way to coach. They may well want to consider coaching their sales partners as a way to improve value. Karen’s ideas may provide some useful ways in which to approach this process. 

You need to identify the right ‘cause’ to rally around

Karen uses interesting language to discuss the issue of leaders working with or against their teams. She argues that you need to identify the right cause—and that probably isn’t fighting your workforce about terms and conditions post-COVID. In thought leadership, you also need to identify the right cause, and then provide the tools for your customers and colleagues to use. Thought leadership isn’t a war, and there isn’t a battlefield, but sometimes you do need to be able to articulate a vision that others can rally around.

Creating a community means giving people a place to belong

The terms ‘community’ and ‘culture’ are now used so often that they have almost become buzzwords. However, that does not make them any less important—if anything, quite the reverse. Karen argues that leaders need to give their employees a place to ‘belong’. If they fit well within the organisation, then they will have a sense of identity and value, and will feel safe enough to take risks. Thought leaders also strive to create communities, albeit virtual. These communities are built around ideas, rather than a shared organisation. However, the need to belong is still crucial—and again, it gives people permission to take risks. Sometimes the risk is in raising a new idea, and sometimes it may be criticising an established idea. This is crucial for the community as a whole, including you, to grow and develop.