The catchy phrase, thought leadership, has become aspirational objective in business, education, and other industries motivated towards positive change and excellence. Those two words cause my inner being to shout, “Yes… I want to be a thought leader!” Thought leadership can be defined as groundbreaking ideas that influence the future direction of an industry, field, or group, and often demonstrate new trends, relationships, or a perspective that changes the approach to a specific problem or innovation. Such an effect on our peers, community, or world is a concept that likely resonates with all of us when we consider notions of identity and legacy. So, how does one go about achieving this role especially as an early career consultant/psychologist? I want to share some ideas from Reid Hoffman’s talk entitled “Live Life in Permanent Beta” as well as expand of some practical implications for how I might become a thought leader in the future.

First of all, what is beta? Beta can refer to rigorous testing with an expected return and assumes a certain amount of systematic risk. Hoffman, co-founder of Linked-In, considers beta-mode to be an approach where you “never think the game is over.” You might have achieved a high level of success but yesterday’s idea may not be as relevant in today’s culture and changing climate. He encourages listeners to “be the entrepreneur of your own life” and live in a state of “permanent beta”. We can do this by re-inventing and re-discovering our strengths, continual learning and taking intelligent risks. This gives us the ability to chart a path for our lives off the traditional road to success (e.g., higher education, corporate ladder, etc.) and to adapt to the reality that the road less travelled may bring us greater satisfaction and opportunities to contribute to the world. In essence, like businesses that demonstrate growth and engagement in a given market we must make a regular habit of investing in others, and ourselves and have the flexibility to respond and even initiate change. Finally, Hoffman mentions the importance of intentionality and considering the potential impact of your ideas when deciding where to invest time and effort.

Cultivating this approach of “permanent beta” sets the foundation for thought leadership. To ensure I become a thought leader in sport and performance psychology and in the Seattle area I can implement the following actions today:
•Prioritize learning – this can be applied to how I spend time daily and is a progression towards the knowledge and skills I want to have in 5, 10, 20-years from now.
•Give – consider how I can make a unique contribution to the world, and find ways to share my passion in ways that reinforce my purpose and vision.
•Network – while I intend to do some work as a consultant, consciously seeking opportunities to work with others that challenge my perspective and strengthen my ideas.
•Schedule rejuvenation breaks – knowing that my best ideas come when I am relaxed, rested, and having fun, designing a daily and yearly schedule that incorporates time to renew my body, mind, and soul will promote my best thoughts.
•Learn from thought leadership in other fields/industries – just like the mental skills found in sport psychology are transferable to other domains, progressive industries can provide a useful and challenging perspective. Listening to podcasts, like those provided on the Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders lecture series is an excellent way to take advantage of the knowledge and wisdom of passion-filled experts. Check it out when you have a minute and it just might change the way you think! http://ecorner.stanford.edu/podcasts.html

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