Becoming leader of the pack

If you're willing to make the commitment, today's media afford many opportunities.

Business coaches love to ask company owners whether they want to be leaders or followers. Since no one wants to be the latter, the questions coaches should be asking are, “In what area do you want to be a leader?” and, “How will you go about doing it?” 

Today, great ideas reign. Any company leader with a brilliant idea can demonstrate his or her smarts through the Internet, social media and free publishing platforms. These tools give all of us access, affordability and amplification. Round out the equation with useful content, actions that speak as loudly as words, hard work and time well spent, and you're on your way to becoming a grass-roots industry leader. 

If you are putting messages out there, you are a leader. And you can—and should—be using every tool at your disposal to spread your ideas as far as possible. If you're not, here's how to get started: 

Define your strengths. What makes your firm special? What does your team do really well? Do you have an expert on staff in a niche position? These are the kinds of things to look at in developing leadership potential and materials to support your position as a progenitor of ideas. You need to supply ideas that inspire. Leaders aren't just talented, they also inspire others to reach greater heights by sharing their experiences and approach. 

Create killer content around intellectual assets. Your high school English teacher was right—communication skills are priceless. You can have brilliant ideas, but you have to express them in a way that doesn't go above your audience's heads or bore them to death. Invest in good content that makes an impact with your audience and gets your ideas out into the world in a captivating way. You didn't get here because you can't think.

Distribute using today's tools. The barrier to publishing and distributing your content has never been lower, whether we're talking access or ease. The range of tools available free or almost free is staggering. These include blogs, webcasting platforms, social networks, video and photography distribution channels, presentation-sharing platforms, and others. With inspiring ideas, great content and a mastery of the appropriate tools, your company's capability to share its insight beyond advertising and earned media is almost infinite. This translates into a major competitive advantage against organizations that either are too scared to participate in or haven't yet discovered how to leverage the social web. 

Lead by example. One of the greatest lessons the social web has taught us is that if you share something on the Internet, it's there indefinitely. Practical application: If you position yourself as a leader, you had better follow through on every last detail. You've made a promise to your audience in a highly visible arena that your firm is outstanding in some particular way—and they will expect you to keep that promise. They'll also probably subject you to tougher scrutiny in other areas as well, so be prepared to defend your positions with grace. In today's information age, being perceived as an adviser whose views are worth heeding is a continuing responsibility that requires humility and integrity beyond your vision statement. It's a bit old-fashioned, but honorable motives generally fare far better with people online and off. Be who you say you are. Do what you say you will. 

Technology aside, being a successful leader in today's world requires the same foundational elements it always has—integrity, honesty, intelligence and confidence. But our modern media environment amplifies your voice, affords you more options to share your ideas and provides a relatively easy and affordable platform on which to do so. Being scared of these tools will result only in being behind the curve. That will make you a follower, not a leader. 

Do you really want to be a leader? If so, the tools are at your fingertips and the world is ready and waiting to help share your genius.