Thought Leadership and Female Entrepreneurship: Beyond the Jargon

This post also appears on my Tumblr blog:

I feel it’s important and wanted to share it again…..

I’ve had an interesting life these past few years, where I was in a petri dish, a modified incubator for entrepreneurship, AKA the lecture circuit. I started my road to entrepreneurship via public speaking 3 years ago, but only did it initially part time. Taking the advice of many a mentor, in Real Time and Cyber Time, I first “dipped my foot in the pool” instead of jumping in. I kept my pediatric speech therapy job part time, and started to be an educational technology consultant on the side. As it took off, I took the plunge, and became more focused and committed to entrepreneurship. I deployed the Socially Speaking™ Social Skills Assessment App for iPad, and became an iPad Evangelist. For the past two years, I have traveled North America giving mySocially Speaking™ Seminars to a variety of special education service providers on the topics of Autism, social communication development & challenges, and iPad App integration into treatment & lesson plans. You can visit my Socially Speaking LLC website to learn more:

Unbeknownst to me, what I was really engaging in, was Thought Leadership. I was speaking to diverse audiences, many of them women, about educational and tech trends, workplace politics in the educational/healthcare arena, the benefits of having a second revenue stream, and best practices re: iPad and social media use. I have since learned that there is an entire subtopic in entrepreneurship, which applies to both startup founders and seasoned CEOs. According to Lauren Hockenson’s July 2013 article in Mashable, “Thought Leadership was first coined by editor in chief Joel Kurtzman of Strategy+Business, the business magazine of technology consulting firm Booz & Company”. How is it different than leadership? Virality. Internet “street cred”.

Wikipedia calls Thought Leadership “business jargon” but it is so much more. It is careful content curation which is publicized and discussed in Real Time at industry conferences and lectures. It is meaningful content curation, visual digitalization, and storytelling, which gets blogged across social media platforms and turned into catchphrases and sound bytes. It goes viral because it is so helpful to a variety of people, from entrepreneurs to marketers, from troubleshooters to CEOs, from consumers to service/product providers. In fact, In Jan 2013 Forbes Magazine ran an article by Michael Brenner, “What is Thought Leadership? Five Steps to Get it Right”.

When you hear the term Thought Leadership, what do you think? I think of two things which I follow regularly; LinkedIn and the Hubspot blog.LinkedIn is known for careful content curation and Thought Leadership articles such as those by Guy Kawasaki, Sir Richard Branson, and Thomas White, (whose blog, Heart of a Leader is a must read, in my opinion). Hubspot is known for providing an annual Thought Leadership & Inbound Marketing Conference in Boston every year. This year I plan to go. Why? Because I want to learn. I want to be inspired. I want to meet other thinkers, movers and shakers, pioneers, and Thought Leaders. Arianna Huffington, Seth Godin, and many others will attend and speak. I can’t wait. Here’s a partial Who’s Who List:

Thought Leadership is an important subculture in entrepreneurship because of its content curation and fodder for the rest of us, its reach, and its subliminal message: “We are all in this together and can learn something from each other, every day”. A simple message. A powerful message. A message that I believe in. It is why I have been traveling the country 2 weeks out of every month this past year alone, teaching, sharing, and learning from the wonderful women I encountered.

Women in particular have been hardwired and poised to be Thought Leaders; historically, biologically, and psychologically. Despite being told the opposite. Despite lack of opportunity, momentum, or time. We women tend to be collaborative, and  mindful of our roles as gatekeepers of a community’s welfare based on caring for others, especially children. Those are two badges of honor that a real Thought Leader must have!

Yet so many women have shied away from entrepreneurship because of misperceptions and reality distortions. Entrepreneurship, like Thought Leadership, is frequently misunderstood, even feared. In medieval times, even in Colonial America, especially during the era of the Mayflower, “group think” was the order of the day for people, especially women. “Outside the box” thinking could lead to being ostracized, or even burned at the stake for witchcraft. What a way to live; no hope for diversity, enrichment, creativity, or growth. People embraced fear. I have chosen to embrace change.

We’ve come a long way since then….or have we?

I have tried to live my life with 2 credos: Why not? and the wise words of Deepak Chopra: “Instead of thinking outside the box, get rid of the box!”. It’s why I just wrote a book on female entrepreneurship and am launching The NICE Initiative. It’s time to make fear work for you, and be empowered to promote change.

Seth Godin, excellent author of Tribes and Linchpin, and one of my favorite Thought Leaders, writes about positioning yourself as a leader, particularly a Thought Leader, by taking a stand. Publicly. Purposefully. Humanely. He writes:

“Leaders lead when they take positions, when they connect with their tribes, and when they help the tribe connect to itself.”

Interestingly, today’s Hubspot blogpost by Lisa Toner is about just that. Lisa writes an article entitled, “How to Build Authority on LinkedIn in 15 Minutes a Day”:

At the end of the day, online Thought Leadership in social media platforms is a godsend for startup entrepreneurs because:

1. It provides virtual mentorship and reverse mentorship (see my previous blogposts)

2. It takes some guesswork out of the equation, alerting one to pitfalls to avoid and trends to follow

3. It changes the world over time, by promoting change, due to its purpose and essence of virality and meaningful content curation

I will continue to write about Thought Leadership, leadership, and female entrepreneurship, but for now, let me end with another inspirational quote from Seth Godin, which I found on Pinterest (where else:).

Join the Journey for Change! It’s time.





About penina4niceinitiative

Penina Rybak MA/CCC-SLP, TSHH, CEO of Socially Speaking LLC, is the author of "The NICE Reboot: A Guide to Becoming a Better Female Entrepreneur". She is an Autism specialist and educational technology consultant turned social entrepreneur. She is also a pediatric speech therapist and the creator of the Socially Speaking™ Program & iPad App. Her second book, "Autism Intervention in the iEra" was published in 2015. Since 2010, Penina has been a national/international speaker about social communication development, balancing humanity and technology, and best practices re: mobile and social technology. Connect with her on LinkedIn to learn more. You can also find her on Twitter: @PopGoesPenina, Facebook: Socially Speaking LLC, Google+ at The NICE Initiative for Female Entrepreneurship, and Pinterest and YouTube as well.
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