Does the idea of being a thought leader make you cringe? Well, you’re in luck. If you would like to keep going through your career in obscurity, here are some tips on how to remain in the shadows. They come from a slide presentation I saw from Craig Baddings, who has a new book out called Brand Stand: Seven Steps to Thought Leadership.
1) Don’t Say Anything New. Never have an opinion, and repeat mainly what you hear others say. It is always safer – if people disagree with you, you can ascribe your comments to someone else. Oh, and if you DO have a new idea, make sure to keep it to yourself. It is much safer.
2) Don’t Let Yourself be Inquisitive. When you see things that are problems or that are interesting, be sure you don’t ask more questions that could produce more work or lead you into areas that challenge established thinking. Someone will likely be made uncomfortable or even get upset with you. If you are speaking with a customer, and someone makes an interesting comment, never follow-up with another question . . . the conversation could run on and on.
3) Never Share What You Know. Knowledge is power. Isn’t that what they say? So keep what you know to yourself. If you tell others about your insights, maybe they won’t need you any longer. The pyramid gets narrower at the top, so don’t let co-workers gain any advantage over you. If you get good at withholding, sometimes it can cause your co-workers to falter. How amusing is that? (See Schadenfreude)
4) Put Away Your Thoughts About Research. Research is a process of asking questions, and then seeking answers. The only problem is, that often your answers only raise more unanswered questions. (This is a corollary to item 2 above.) Learning can become a vicious circle . . . a slippery slope!
5) Don’t Ever Scan Your Competitors. It is safer to keep your focus internal, so you can convince yourself that you are great and things couldn’t be better. If you learn things from suppliers or others outside your industry, it is always better to dismiss them because they don’t have to deal with the things unique to your industry. If they are better than you, then their example cannot be relevant. If it was a good idea, you would have already thought about it. Wouldn’t you?
6) Never Dive Deep. When you are solving problems, pick the first possible answer you can – otherwise you can get bogged down in endless searching for root causes that will only lead you across departmental boundaries where you can’t count on their help anyway. The more doors you open, the more problems you are likely to uncover. No one else will likely help you with any of it. Better to leave well enough alone. Sure the problem may re-emerge – but you can deal with that then.
7) Keep a Low Social Media Profile. As Betty White once said when hosting Saturday Night Live of Facebook: “It sounds like a huge waste of time. . . If I want to communicate with old friends, I need a Ouija Board.” The less you communicate with those who Betty calls “losers”, the better. If you never make a comment, your comments will never be shared in ways you don’t approve. Who needs to connect with more old high school buddies anyway?
8) Use Your 15 Minutes Wisely. Andy Warhol once said that everyone sooner or later gets their 15 minutes of fame. You never know when that will happen for you, maybe in a meeting when the boss goes around the room and ultimately asks you what you think. Be sure to speak in a way that’s. . . oh, just watch this video on How to Give a Speech Without Saying Anything.
So . . . that’s it – a starting guide on how to go through life invisibly, without leaving any footprints, or making a difference.
It’s easier to do than you may think! But… Why would anyone want to?