Developing a Thought Leadership Strategy with Charlene Li

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Charlene Li, WIC’s featured speaker for February, spoke on “Leadership in the Digital Age.” She presented on how relationships are formed in this digital era, how to become a thought leader, and offered tips on developing a communication strategy, setting goals, and increasing engagement.


Thought leaders are inspirational, empowering, visionary. As a thought leader you are able to inspire and add value for your followers by sharing knowledge, ideas, and information. The following tips will help you construct a distinct presence in this digital age.

Find your ideal platform. Understand how the various platforms differ and only use the ones that allow you to be authentic. This will facilitate stronger relationships with your followers.

Post regularly. This can be once a day, once a week, or once a month – as long as it is persistent and consistent. This regular activity will help to establish you as an expert in your chosen topic or field. Your published work will then be shared by others which further affirms and endorses your leadership position.

Make time to listen for a few minutes each day – it will motivate you to share. Make sure your posts add value and that you share with respect to what stakeholders are interested in hearing, rather than promoting yourself. Your followers want to know what’s on your mind, who you’re meeting with, and what you’re working on.

Listen strategically. Identify which information is needed to achieve your strategic goals, then explicitly listen for it. Focus on what people are saying and the language they are using. Be clear about whom you want to listen to, what you want to hear, and which decisions you will make based on the data you collect.

Share deliberately. Don’t focus on what you want to share; focus on what your audience needs to hear from you. Share information in the form of a story or anecdote as it will be more memorable than plain facts. Strengthen your relationship with your followers by validating them, then use metrics to measure the impact and reach of your interactions. Monitor when and how you are being heard and whether the behaviors of your followers are changing.

Develop an engagement strategy. Engagement with your audience is vitally important. Let your audience know that they are being heard and that you want to hear more from them. Ask them what they think and how they feel, then validate them. This breaks down the perceived power distance between leader and follower and strengthens the relationship. Use your engagement strategy to establish how you will respond, when you will respond, and whom you will respond to.

It is crucial that your strategy is aligned with the culture of the organization and that both are consistent across all platforms. If the two are disjointed it will be impossible to move forward. Culture can be altered, but successful culture needs to be designed and nurtured. When creating culture consider incorporating powerful elements such as integrity, humility, empowerment, and a focus on the customer. Test the organization’s culture by monitoring goodwill and customer and employee trust of the company. Continuously work to actively develop and sustain trust through integrity and engagement.

It is important for the organization to adapt its practices and continue to help its customers as it changes. There are three levels of disruption that you can create and leverage which manifest as a power shift: customer, organizational, and ecosystem. For example, the power of the customer in the decision-making process can be changed through access to information and the ability to take action, and employees affect the structure of the organization by shifting power through levels of hierarchy.


Set 3-5 primary goals for this year. Identifying them makes it much easier to see which steps can be taken to accomplish your goals. You can find further details about which digital trends to focus on this year at: Altimeter’s Top Digital Trends for 2016


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Charlene Li is the Founder and CEO of Altimeter Group and the author of five books, including the New York Times bestseller “Open Leadership” and the co-author of the critically acclaimed book “Groundswell.” She is a sought after speaker and advisor to many Fortune 500 companies. She is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Business School and lives in San Francisco. For more information, visit Charlene’s Website or Email her.

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