🪤 The Self-Promotion Trap: The Difference between Thought Leadership and Self-Promotion

Ft. Daniel Priestley

Daniel Priestley’s Diary of a CEO episode is going to generate a LOT of sales for his businesses. Even though he didn’t sell a thing. How? Because he understands that…

Thought leadership is idea promotion

… not self-promotion*

In his words, it’s not look at me, it’s look at this.

Leading with your ideas is what takes you from Founder to Thought Leader. The problem is, that most Founders fall into the Self-Promotion Trap 🪤.

It’s SO easy to do.

We’ve got businesses to build! The three most common traps that we fall into?

❌ Telling people what we’ve done 🥱

‘Hey everyone, I just spoke at this event/wrote this blog/appeared on this podcast (look at me!)’

Regurgitating other leader’s content or quotes 🤮

‘Let me tell you about SMART goals…’

❌ Seeking validation over meaningful change 🤩

‘Thrilled to announce I am a LinkedIn Top Voice/Forbes 30 Under 30 etc.!

If, like me, you’ve ever fallen into any of these content traps, you’re not alone.

So if that’s not thought leadership, what is?!

Thought leadership is the pursuit of furthering your field of expertise. How?

  1. By challenging conventional wisdom,

  2. Opening and contributing to the debate,

  3. Committing to opinions and sharing what you’ve learned along the way.

And Daniel does all three in this 27-second clip while talking about thought leadership - very meta… 🍿 

3 ways to ensure your content always has a thought leadership lens:

  1. Instead of sharing what you’ve done, share what you’ve discovered 💡
    Instead of playing the ‘thought leader,’ play the student. Share your work with a critical eye. What have you learned from the process? What would you do differently next time? What did you miss?

    The problem with the term thought leadership is it suggests that you need to have all the answers. You don’t. No-one does.

    You’d be surprised at the interest, trust, and goodwill that this alone will generate.

  2. Don’t just share other’s work, contribute to it 💭
    Consume the content in your sphere with a critical eye.

    If it’s good and you want to champion it, what could you add to take it even further/make it relevant to your audience?

    If it’s not, where does it fall short?

    That content is your original thought. Share it.

  3. When you receive validation, share the untold story behind it 🤫
    As Daniel says, our job as thought leaders isn’t to chase the spotlight, it’s to be the spotlight. So spotlight the behind-the-scenes story.

    Did you pay or apply for it? Were you nominated? Was it worth it? What do you really think of these accolades?

    Say what others don’t. Be different. Pay it forward.

Falling into the self-promotion trap is what prevents most aspiring thought leaders from ever starting in the first place.

No one wants to come across as a self-promoter.

But from my experience, the biggest benefit of sharing your ideas in public isn’t likes or follows; it’s clarity.

Everything I write about, I’m still learning about. This newsletter is an idea lab 🧪.*

I write because…

The person who learns the most in any classroom is the teacher.

James Clear

And that is the real reason why, if you haven’t already, you should start today.


*In fact, your replies and poll responses are a huge influence on my understanding of this world. So thank you 🙏.

Speaking of which, I need your help… 🚨

There are so many average public speaking resources out there. I want to create something so useful, that it cuts through all that noise and gives you a transformational impact. A silver bullet.

But in order to do that, I need to understand what’s stopping you from raising your game right now. So please do me a huge favour, and answer the following question:

What's the biggest challenge preventing you from using public speaking to transition into thought leadership?

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