In a world where every second person and their dog proclaims to be a thought leader, I love it when I come across individuals who are genuinely putting it all out there: exploring ideas in public, provoking thought, sparking conversation and igniting debate around topics and issues that they (and others) care about.
With this in mind, here are four very different women who catch my attention time and time again for all the right reasons, as outlined above.
They’re resolute in their views, they actively publish content, they’re on social media beating the drum for issues they’re passionate about, and are consistent in showing up and delivering value.
Above all: they speak with conviction, whether that’s through their content, or in interviews with bloggers, podcasters and sometimes, journalists.
Notably, all four individuals don’t just bang on about their various business interests, but are open and generous in sharing their thoughts, ideas, knowledge and experience across a range of topics more broadly.
If you’re interested to understand what it takes to become a genuine thought leader and an influential voice in your space, I recommend you check out Sarah, Wes, Codie and Ashley in more detail.
Okay, let’s take a look at them one by one!
Sarah is CEO of Shakespeare Martineau, a fast-growing, progressive UK law firm with over 900 staff.
According to her Twitter profile, Sarah is “passionate about the potential of people in inclusive organisations and the power of common purpose for benefits of business and society”
Sarah first came to my attention during the pandemic, when she started a series of YouTube videos called Shed Life to “provide a glimpse of what it’s like to be a modern CEO of a national law firm during lockdown”.
Sarah is active on LinkedIn, where she has nearly 11,000 followers, and posts about equality, leadership, good business practice, culture and transformation.
from where i sit
I find Sarah very engaging on a number of fronts, whether reading her LinkedIn posts, or watching her YouTube interviews, or being interviewed by someone else.
She articulates her views around a range of topics, including:
- gender equality (example)
- small business (example)
- diversity (example)
- social media (example)
- leadership (example)
- the future of law firms (example)
It’s clear Sarah is at the top of her game, and the companies under her stewardship (she’s also CEO of Shakespeare Martineau’s holding company, Ampa) are going places.
As a CEO, she exhibits a willingness to deepen the level of connection she has with employees, the legal world and business community generally.
Wes is co-founder of Maven, the first platform for cohort-based courses. Maven helps creators build a cohort-based course and deliver an incredible student experience at scale.
Previously, she was the co-founder (alongside Seth Godin) of the altMBA which, under her leadership, grew from zero to 550 cities in 45 countries in three years of high-growth.
Wes is particularly active on Twitter, where she has over 150,000 followers and continues to attract people’s attention via her thought-provoking Twitter threads (this can be a very effective way to build an audience on Twitter).
She also writes meaty essays on her blog, produces a regular newsletter on “leveling up and being more effective in your work”, and is a regular guest on other people’s podcasts.
At a high level, Wes shares what she calls “spiky POVs” on business, marketing, learning. But she is very adept at dovetailing into a range of subjects and talking points.
For example, according to the bio on her website, Wes cares about the following topics:
📚 Learning and online education
🎯 End-to-end marketing
💡 Positioning and messaging
🐞 Turning bugs into features
🤪 Building for irrational human behavior
👟 Optimizing both brand and performance marketing
🔑 Anchoring and increasing perceived value
🌵 Developing a spiky point of view
🤔 Deciding what to do despite imperfect info
✨ Giving the vocabulary to turn ideas from fuzzy to concrete
💜 Serving as a gut check if you’re being delusional
(The emojis are Wes’s, by the way!)
from where i sit
I find Wes thoughtful, considered, but still very accessible with her insights and ideas.
While many domain experts prefer to stay fiercely within their lane/s so as not to confuse the marketplace, Wes eschews the notion of this, preferring to talk and write about a broad array of topics.
That said, I think she still manages to keep her voice pretty consistent. I’m not sure if it’s on purpose, but her content – in aggregate – contributes to Wes’s unique narrative (I really like Wes’s take on developing adjacent skills to become a better operator).
Check out Wes’s resource library and her most popular articles, including my favourite, Spiky point of view: Let’s get a little controversial.
But I think this LinkedIn post by JJ Ruescas says it all. Here’s an excerpt:
Wes is one of the Thought Leaders that greatly shaped the way I, my team, and my business behave and improved the courses that I create. Her in-depth expertise in team culture, strategy, rigorous thinking, marketing, and many more aspects, inspire anyone that gets in touch with her work 🚀JJ Ruescas
Codie is the founder of Contrarian Thinking, a fast-growing newsletter-based business.
She’s made a huge splash in a relatively short period of time with her forthright (and contrarian) views around investing. Her mantra is get rich by investing in boring small businesses.
Codie’s audience is clearly hungry for her views and ideas on investing, and she effectively fuels this interest by consistent publishing of original multimedia content. In turn, she’s building out a powerful platform across multiple channels, namely:
- 920,000 followers on TikTok
- 405,000 followers on Instagram
- 218,000 followers on Twitter
- 46,000 followers on LinkedIn
- 304,000 subscribers on YouTube
- 160,000 subscribers via her Contrarian Thinking newsletter
As you can see, while she is a private equity investor in “26 boring businesses”, Codie also runs a pretty darn good mini-media empire!
from where i sit
I talk often about ‘nailing your colours to the mast’. What do you stand for? What’s your overarching philosophy that you’d (metaphorically!) ‘die in a ditch’ for?
If you want to become a credible authority – a genuine expert or thought leader that people respect, take notice of, and listen to – then you need to stand for something. Oh, you also need to represent that idea: to be able to articulate and communicate your overarching principle or philosophy with passion, purpose and strategic intent.
Codie does this with aplomb (not to mention lashings of sass)!
This Instagram video is a perfect example of creating micro-content that not only adds value to the audience and gets us thinking, but also reinforces her public-facing narrative.
Check out Codie’s social channels and/or subscribe to her newsletter. I think you’ll agree she has developed her voice and is super-consistent with how she shows up. Contrarian indeed, but it’s certainly working for her in a big way!
Ashley is Director of Integrated Product Marketing at Atlassian, and an emerging thought leader in her own right.
(Worth noting: Ashley doesn’t consider herself a thought leader – she said so herself when I interviewed her for my podcast, but that’s semantics; she’s really making a dent 😀)
Ashley is steadily making a name for herself on LinkedIn, where she is especially active in commenting on other people’s posts (a much underrated way to build your network). She’s also on Twitter, she writes, speaks and records live streamed video with others.
She covers a range of topics to do with business and marketing, but her core areas of focus are content strategy, marketing strategy, and, ironically, thought leadership (she has developed a framework that she calls the Four Pillars of Thought Leadership – you can check it out here).
Ashley is also not averse to jumping on a soapbox and flying the flag on issues she has a strong opinion on.
from where i sit
Ashley is active, consistent, generous and approachable. She has opinions and points of views developed through years in the professional trenches, not to mention lots of valuable insights and advice which she willingly (and consistently) shares across her various channels.
Clearly she’s getting noticed for all the right reasons, as evidenced by her regular speaking gigs and video/podcast interviews (earned media).
Importantly, Ashley understands the power of community and connecting with people in her network; she is also an excellent proponent of showing a personal side in her content.
Rounding up …
While Sarah, Wes, Codie and Ashley are four very different individuals, there share some common factors. Five that spring to mind are:
- They are whip-smart; clearly they are well-read and curious about the world more broadly, not just their chosen field.
- They connect dots: all four cover significant intellectual territory, but still manage to build a narrative that is unique to them (of the four, Codie is perhaps the most focused topic-wise i.e. investing and making money, but she has also been known to cover interesting sidebar subjects i.e. ‘Lessons from 2 ex-CIA spies’)
- They’re active content creators, although each does it in their own way; Codie, for example, focuses on short-form video, while Wes relies more on the written word.
- They are all generous with sharing their insights, ideas, knowledge and experience.
- They all come across as genuine and authentic: what you see is in all likelihood what you get!
So, as I said at the top, if you’re interested to better understand what it takes to become a credible thought leader and an influential voice in your space, I recommend checking out Sarah, Wes, Codie and Ashley in more detail!
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