Speak Like a Thought Leader

Sherman, Pam 4

This week’s guest is Pam Sherman, author of “Speaking Like a Successful Thought Leader, and the column called The Suburban Outlaw which can be read in Democrat and Chronicle, and also the Rochester Magazine where she contributes each article. She is best-seller for The Suburban Outlaw: Tales from the Edge. 

Pam story of ditching her day job as a lawyer to pursue her dream as an actress was featured in People Magazine. She combines her business background as an attorney with her creative skills at The E.D.G.E. which stands for Explore, Dream, Grow and Excite! We’ll hear about how it supports business leaders to use acting skills for communication, business development, and passionate leadership.

She shares her insights in her latest E.D.G.E. Program on how to speak like a thought leader in your industry by applying your own brand and conviction and courage, after all, being a thought leader has become a critical leadership trait in today’s growing world of experts.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Pam Sherman has been an incredible friend of mine. She’s an adjunct professor, she is an award-winning person in many, many different ways. She’s a lecturer, she’s been at Northwestern Kellogg School of Business, at many national and world renowned conferences. She is among one of the best speakers I know and she is just a fabulous person. You can learn all about her by going to her website. One of the things I love to talk about when I talk about Pam, is that she performed in theater, film and television, including NBC’s Homicide: Life on the Streets-Unsolved Mysteries, and the long running play; Sheared Man The Kennedys. Her one-woman show, Pumping Jersey: Life and Death in Suburbia, has played to great acclaim in many venues including Horizon Theatre which is the oldest women’s theatre in country.

Pam is a highly rated global resource for leaderships groups, specifically the Young President’s Organization. The YPO is one of the most well-known organizations around the globe and she is one of their highly rated resources. She has presented across North America, around the world, you name it—the Middle East, Europe, North America, Australia—Pam’s been there.

She is an attorney, and actor, a writer, and she is a fabulous executive in her own right. She is an excellent communications coach who offers customized programs to support anyone’s leadership communication style and business development.

We are going to bring Pam on and we are going to talk about Explore, Dream, Grow and Excite. We are going to talk about how you get people to become thought leaders through their speaking and I’m glad to have you here!

Pam Sherman: Thank you so much. Who is that person, she sounds great! It’s really wonderful to be here and to be able to have and take the time to talk about this. Thought leadership is bandied about, I believe, almost sometimes in not necessarily the best ways. Given your interest, both of you, in emotional engagement, I want to make sure that my definition of thought leadership actually jives with yours. Which, is about having a depth of understanding of your audience and emotionally engaging and it’s not just a cerebral connection; thought leadership is about displaying your values, having a deep understanding of your expertise, and presenting in an emotionally engaging way. That to me, the greatest thought leaders and why we look to them and say well, that’s a thought leader, somebody I want to follow, is that ability to communicate a vision and gain commitment to it.

Dr. Relly Nadler: So those are the things we definitely want to hear more about; some of those tips and things that you bring in your professional life, but also just hearing your bio, maybe you could talk a little bit about who has been influential and a thought leader in your life and what is behind this whole career change that you had. So key thought leaders for you and how have you got to where you are now?

Pam Sherman: Well it’s interesting. I love that question because I really started thinking about it. In law school I would say it was Barry Scheck, you all may recall that he was on the OJ Simpson trial, but he has become world renowned for his work with Peter Neufeld in the Innocence Project. When I was in law school what makes somebody a thought leader as an attorney is that depth of understanding and leadership and commitment to having their values represented in their work.

I’d also point to Kouzes and Posner. I had the thrill of meeting Jim Kouzes last year in Denver at the YPO Global Leadership Conference and their values based leadership concepts and the leadership challenge—these are really important concepts for leaders to know. What are the Ten Truths of Leadership?

I know you have had Chip Conley on; his great connection to emotional intelligence, but his second book, which was Peak on taking the Maslow Hierarchies and applying it to employee engagement and investor engagement and how it can help to make companies more successful.

I would say, Cathy, obviously Relly I’ve come to know you through the show, but I will never forget meeting Cathy at the Canyon Ranch and her work in happiness and how that can convey both to companies and how your individual growth can make all the difference in the world to the growth of your company and your business. From my personal story, it’s always been a quest of being truly authentic to who I was and using that in all levels of my career.

I don’t want to be self-serving here, but I would say your work Cathy has been an inspiration to me as well.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Well, I’m glad that I’m being useful in some capacity. I’ll tell you what Relly and I are really excited about is the idea that somebody can actually become a thought leader and be a critical support to other leaders by how they present themselves. I’d like to know how people can make a difference in the way they speak and approach and how a listener engages with them.

Dr. Rely Nadler: We want to talk a little bit about why being a thought leader is so critical to leadership success today; more now than ever? You have a whole process about that. Can you lead us into that? Why is it so more important now, more than ever?

Pam Sherman: I think it is so important now more than ever because frankly, in order to be heard you need to come above the pack. There are so many platforms for communication in business now. Whether that be social media, television, radio obviously, that in order to be seen and create a positive impression of the industries that you might serve, you have to rise above the pack and be heard.

I started to see clients coming to me and saying that they wanted to be seen as thought leaders. They would say it but they didn’t know what that meant. Really, to be provocative, well first you have to be seen as a leader, right, in your industry in terms of innovation.

Then the leaders within your company have to be taught how to communicate; their depth of understanding, their specialists in their expertise, their unique perspective, and to understand that branding of the company comes about through how it’s presented by its leaders who are out there in the world.

That brand is really about the value that they present to the world, it’s both the expertise, the content, the kind of value based leadership that they may have in their industry. So the process really became about what are the stories that you want to share; let’s start with having leadership presence; going back to what does that mean, what are the skills that they need in order to be seen as a leader to be heard. Then ultimately what are the stories that they want to share and the platforms that they want to share it on in order to again be heard above the din of everyone’s expertise and really be established as a thought leader—somebody who everybody thinks of when it’s your industry.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: You know I’m sitting here and I’m thinking about content development and I’m thinking about so many great people who we have had on the show, Relly, and I’m sure all three of us have been in a room with someone who has written a great book or has a great idea, but they can’t get their idea across to people because they don’t have what you call the leadership presence to make a difference in reestablishing themselves as a business person verses a thought leader. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Pam Sherman: It’s such an interesting conundrum because someone might be an expert in their field and they are great at the written word, which is by the way an aspect of thought leadership, obviously, right? The platforms and the content development, you have to start somewhere. They might be developing white papers within their industry, but then they are asked to speak or go on a keynote, or even to just be on a panel, and they don’t take that leap to presenting their passion or their mission in a credible and authentic way, with energy.

Knowing is not enough to be an expert in your field anymore. I’m watching it with journalists now, even a journalist; it’s not enough to be an accurate reporter, now they have to create digital content and be interviewers. They are really being asked to brand themselves as journalists rather than just being writer of the story.

Dr. Relly Nadler: One of the things that I think is interesting, Pam, and you brought up Jim Kouzes and I’m sure Cathy and I have both used his LPI which is a leadership survey. One of the categories is inspirational leadership, exactly what you are talking about. People who take that, and Kouzes has agreed with this, and find it’s always the lowest score.

What are some of these key tips? If that’s what people want and then people get rated lowest in it; what are they not doing? What should they be doing?

Pam Sherman: Well, it’s interesting. It’s almost as if they might have consistency in the content that they put out, but then they are not getting themselves out there, finding industry conferences that they can present themselves at; I don’t think that they tackle it from an audience perspective. Often they start with the content and their expertise. The concept of E.D.G.E. is really a skillset, a process by which you can look to take your content and deliver it to the audience.

The most important thing, “Explore,” is understanding what your audience needs; that they are all sitting there thinking what is in this for me? Really recognizing that it’s not just enough as you look at audience connections, that’s what the “explore” is about, but not just what do they think but how do I want them to feel when they leave the room. Honestly, they don’t remember as much content as you think. They do remember how they felt about you as the presenter. That’s critical to determining your behavior. You have to decide how you want them to feel, and what is the behavior?

Too often when we think about thought leadership we forget it’s a behavior too that needs to be addressed, thought out, and decided. You are the decider about how you are going to perform when you get up to present your area of expertise.

The next thing is what are the stories that you are going to share? So it’s the how to connect to your audience and what is important to them, and how you are going to share it in terms of how you are going to perform, and that includes voice, body language, understanding your role and your objective in that moment as a thought leader.

Then “Dream”. I like to talk about how a dream is a story that just hasn’t happened yet. So you have to go back and harken back to the stories that you know and share them with your audience so that it’s specific, it’s understandable to them, there is a sensory sense; your stories have to be, frankly, thick with emotion, feeling, and sensory detail so that it connects to the audience as a listener.

Then the Grow” part is to go out of your comfort zone. Too often, very often, thought leaders are intellectually commanding and really understand their area, but they are not willing to grow out of their comfort zone to do something a little bit uncomfortable in order to be memorable to their audience, which is frankly, what thought leadership is all about.

The final thing, “Excite,” is if you are passionate and you have a mission in your area of expertise, you have to change your audience somehow with your expertise, otherwise, don’t bother getting on the stage. That is pretty much how I say this to CEO’s; your job is somehow to change the audience with what you know. That is what distinguishes a thought leader.

Listen to the complete interview with Pam Sherman, above, without commercials.


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