People are consuming massive amounts of content each day via their smartphones, laptops, tablets and the multiple social media platforms, blogs and publications they engage with. Carefully observe the leaders in your organization – the content they create and/or read shapes how they lead. This is why the leaders who write well, speak well and read often are generally those who effectively lead. Leaders gravitate towards content that fuels their knowledge and provides them the insights and wisdom that keeps them on their toes and helps them better serve others. Conversely, those who are not well read often don’t write well or have the ability to speak effectively – they lack the communication skills and executive presence required to be taken seriously as a leader.
I’ve often said that the most effective leaders are both “suppliers” of their own original content and “distributors” of other leaders’ content. The two combined creates an overarching content narrative with interconnected themes that influences the way a leader naturally thinks, acts and innovates. Perhaps this is why people gravitate towards certain leaders and – if you think about this through the lens of social media – certain social media platforms? It’s all about the content narrative, isn’t it?
With so much content to choose from, leaders must know themselves well enough that they can effectively engage with the content that most aligns with their leadership goals. The 15% of leaders that have defined and live their personal brand every day have made the decision to consistently focus on content that will improve their leadership impact.
It’s easy to spot a leader with an identity crisis because they only use other people’s content, rather than looking inside themselves to discover their own creativity of thought and creating their own original content. How many times have you heard your boss or other leader quote a book and then repurpose key messages from that book as if it were their own? Will this leader’s impact and influence be sustainable or will it be short-lived? Most likely the latter unless he or she recognizes that true leadership requires original thought and imagination that can motivate others, solve problems, and cultivate innovation and initiative along the way.
The consumption of content allows leaders to more effectively relate to and associate with others too. For example, if you were to bundle the content on your smartphone or tablet apps, how would you define the content narrative? What about the apps of your friends and colleagues? Would you discover common content themes and alignment of thought? When we read the same types of content, we trust and engage with others faster. This is why many leaders share books and articles with their teams and colleagues.
As a thought- leader, I find my original content being used all the time in other people’s case studies, books and blogs. When asked where I find my sources of energy and creative thinking for my content, my response always comes down to: my observation of other leaders and my own experiences as a senior executive, investor and entrepreneur. My thought leadership responsibility is to help leaders in the workplace see and seize opportunities previously unseen. This is done by teaching them how to identify probability patterns and connect the dots between talent potential and the direct impact it can have on business strategies and outcomes.
My organization conducted a study which revealed that, when it comes to the consumption of content, 85% of leaders are more interested in being “in-the-know” rather than learning “the-know-how.” In other words, content consumption is more about gathering and understanding “the essence” of a subject matter – rather than the desire to become a subject matter expert. In the high-tech, multi-channel, ease of information access world we live in, today’s leaders want the content they consume delivered in digestible chucks – just enough to be able to speak about a certain subject matter in meetings or discuss it at a very high level with colleagues to stimulate thought and ideation. When they believe it’s time to apply the subject matter, this is when they begin to invest the appropriate time, resources and money to become an expert.
What types of content do you consume? How does it help you make decisions and increase productivity? What types of blogs and books do you naturally gravitate towards? Do you engage with certain social media platforms?
During our study, we also discovered the types of content that leaders consume and the reasons why they gravitate towards it. Here are the top-10 leadership content themes that we found:
#1: Managing People
Why? Leadership is about maximizing the productivity of people as you help them and the organization grow and prosper. Leaders hunger to understand human behavior so they can inspire and motivate people to reach their full potential.
#2: Propel Innovation and Initiative
Why? Leaders may not have all of the answers but they are expected to. They want to understand how to enable creativity and innovation in their teams and associates; how to be more efficient with their people, resources and budgets; and how to find interconnection points and probability patterns.
#3: Career Management
Why? Leaders are looking for a leg-up in their careers and seek ways to put themselves in the best possible position to manage their careers. They are looking for help getting promoted by learning to see and seize career advancement opportunities previously unseen.
#4: Performance Improvements
Why? Leaders desire to improve their skill sets and capabilities. They know that in order to remain valued and trusted by their peers, they must be the complete package: a well-rounded leader who stays informed about high-performance trends and standards and is capable of creating sustainable impact and influence.
#5: Problem Solving Techniques
Why? Leaders spend a lot of their time solving problems and thus seek to understand how to be more efficient and effective at how to solve problems the right way. They are looking to avoid short-cuts and the negative implications associated with crisis and change.
#6: Change Management
Why? Change is constant and evolving. Leaders want to feel more comfortable and capable leading in times of crisis and uncertainty. They want to help their employees and teams become stronger when faced with adversity.
#7: Make More Money
Why? Leaders wanting to make more money must learn how to negotiate their salaries and performance-based bonuses.
#8 (Tied): Networking
Why? Leaders desire to widen their contact base and want to learn how to meet the right people and better leverage their resources to advance their careers.
#8 (Tied): Relationships
Why? Just because you are a leader, doesn’t mean you know how to create and sustain relationships. Leaders want to know how to earn relationships in a short period of time and must learn the techniques to do so.
#9: Time Management
Why? Every minute counts at work and when leaders plan to do something, they are also deciding not to do something else. Leaders want to get the most out of every day and seek to find new ways to manage their time in order to influence growth, innovation and opportunity.
#10: Workplace Culture
Why? Leaders know that employees are being asked to do more with less. As such, leaders are being asked to help create a workplace culture that supports trust, transparency and cross functional collaboration. Leaders want to know how to overcome workplace negativity and how to create and sustain a culture where everyone has each other’s back.
How does the content you read shape the way that you lead? Do you agree with this top-10 list? What are the content themes that you gravitate towards the most? Ask your leaders at work?
What is the most important takeaway from this article? We often say, “You are what you eat.” But you also lead how you think. If you are stuck in your career or having trouble maximizing the performance of your team and/or the growth of your organization – begin with a better understanding of the content that is required to help you overcome the hurdles you are being faced with. Content is king so plan and learn how to best utilize it.