As a former marathon runner, I can’t help but follow-on to our first On Your Mark blog post with another analogy.
I also couldn’t help but watch with rapt interest at the last mile of the 2012 Olympics Women’s Marathon as a pack of four runners headed toward the finish line. While all four were close, three runners from Ethiopia, Kenya, and Russia were clearly were battling it out for the gold, silver and bronze medals. As the fourth runner, Mary Jepkosgei Keitany of Kenya (incidentally a pre-race favorite), fell increasingly behind in those final moments, she soldiered on with a relatively calm expression on her face which I can only imagine hid her disappointment.
While some people might find fourth place the most frustrating and disappointing of positions, particularly after logging more than 20 miles on foot, I actually find it a place of inspiration. Why? Because of all the runners in the field, it’s the position most poised for success from this point onward. There’s no medal to defend, no reputation to diminish, no critics to silence. There’s a solid foundation of achievement with only an upward trajectory, and that’s inspiring.
This got me thinking that thought leadership is not much different. Just like running a marathon, thought leadership can’t happen overnight. Thought leaders are cultivated and developed. For anyone who does it, you’re well aware that it takes a long time, a lot of effort, and some disappointments along the way.
However, like runner #4 heading toward the finish line, every thought leader eventually reaches that place: you’re not quite there yet, but your position is strong enough to compete with the elites and with a little more effort, you just might win.
For every struggling thought leader who wants to be on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, watch Mary Jepkosgei Keitany and remember her tenacity. Keep agreeing to those background briefings, write your blog posts, accept every speaking opportunity and jump on the rapid response programs. When your competitor gets the profile article, study it, dissect it, and do some thorough self-assessment on what you might need to make it there. Do you need a more provocative point of view? Do you need to showcase some innovation before it’s completely ready? Do you need to engage more deeply with your social media communities? What else would drive your success?
With time and effort, you too could be on the podium in 2016.
Posted by Meghan Gross on August 8, 2012 at 11:19 AM