You know the professionals who show up online, have a story to share, deliver a worthy message and can get people’s attention. They stand tall even though we can’t see their height. They get attention and respect when they share, not because they speak loudly, but because they have mastered their online presence with uniqueness, relevant content and ownership.
Those professionals have achieved what you may want and need: the ability to effectively transfer offline leadership to an online platform as well as transform and revolutionize the way they lead and achieve leadership presence on LinkedIn.
It is no longer enough to hone your offline leadership skills and forget the importance of your LinkedIn digital footprint. A few years ago, I had the chance to interview a group of recognized leaders and was surprised to find out that many of them did not feel like that same leader online. Many experienced imposter syndrome due a lack of LinkedIn intelligence and, for some, a sheer unwillingness to try to flex their LinkedIn muscles in a way they found uncomfortable.
After digging a bit deeper, it was strikingly obvious that it came down to fear – fear of losing credibility, fear of not knowing what to say, fear of not being seen as enough, fear of not standing up to expectations, fear of getting lost in the crowd, fear of criticism, fear of not doing things right and/or fear of not being able to have that presence that came naturally to them offline.
It all comes down to embracing change. Of course, online leadership presence is not instantaneous; it takes work to develop a new mindset. But for leaders up to the challenge, the benefits of developing a LinkedIn leadership presence will be well worth the effort.
Here’s how you can cultivate these vital skills and become recognized as a LinkedIn thought leader.
Start with writing your LinkedIn story
Start with your profile because this is where your story begins. Customize your background photo to tie into your brand and connect you to industry. Make sure your headshot is professional and approachable. Ensure your tagline (branding photo) shows some personality and also does the job of explaining your UVP (Unique Value Positioning). This section along, with your summary, has the ability to powerfully position you a leader in your field. Use functional keywords throughout your story well as a call to action so viewers know what to do next. Your summary is not an online resume; make sure it is compelling and shows what you went through to get to where you are today. This is your chance to take interested people on your exciting career journey.
Be an effective communicator and active listener
To be an effective communicator online, it is important to embrace diverse opinions, suggestions and ideas, ask open-ended questions, include others and continuously show you are open to feedback. Learning how to actively listen to your online network builds trust, shows respect and offers support for those surrounding you. It encourages relationship-building and creates the space necessary for the exchange of information.
Display confidence and stand tall
Another way to lead online is by being confident in what you are sharing and where you are sharing from. You must look prepared when sharing and introducing a post or article. Taking ownership of your LinkedIn space means writing your story in the first person, writing content that resonates with your expertise and writing directly to your target audience. Know what you stand for and never lose sight of your message, your mission and your brand. Think and act like you are standing on the stage and your words are waiting to be heard. Your posture shows up online, so take a deep breath and set the impression metaphorically.
Think collaboration, not competition
You are unique and bring your very own skills, abilities, characteristics, experience and personality to LinkedIn. Create your own “secret sauce.” This is what makes you unique and sets you apart from others.
Success on LinkedIn will depend greatly on how you position yourself with other like-minded, yet unique, thought leaders. Furthermore, don’t judge yourself on what others in your LinkedIn community are doing. Strive to stand out, not fit in.
Change WIIFY to WIIFT
Make it about what’s in it for them (WIIFT) as opposed to what’s in it for you (WIIFY). Defining who your real audience is, and building content to share with them, will help you focus and help establish yourself as an authority in your field, rather than creating content just to create content. You need to find a way to position all of your content to say, “You found who you were looking for; no need to go any further.”
Master the art of social reciprocity
As an online leader, you can harness the power of being kind. This will enrich the people around you. Be a “Go-Giver” instead of a “Go-Getter” and spread LinkedIn goodness around like confetti: “like,” “share,” “thank,” “tag,” “write,” “reach out” and “comment” – just a few of the ways to engage and give to others on LinkedIn.
Overcome imposter syndrome
You did not get where you are because you don’t deserve or live up to it. If you don’t believe in all you have achieved, how will others believe in you? Be your own biggest fan! Own, celebrate and share your achievements because this supports self-confidence, credibility and the idea that leaders can be imperfectly perfect. And always remember that “Every expert was once a beginner!” – Rutherford Hayes.
Steps to success
Leadership is not a title – especially online, it is totally about behaviour. LinkedIn gives everyone a piece of online real estate for people to showcase what they do well. So, think about the kind of leader you want to be and how you want to show up. You must take steps to grow your reputation. Start by connecting with like-minded leaders and established leaders in your field, commit to writing two to three times a week on a subject you feel comfortable writing about, contribute to other people’s content and consistently show up. People connect with you based on the credibility of your profile and the space you fill on LinkedIn, so do all you can to position yourself as an expert worth getting to know.
Becoming a leader on LinkedIn takes time, so enjoy the ride. Soon enough, you will not only see how powerful of a tool LinkedIn can be, you will start to gain followers, build relationships, gain opportunities and get recognition in the most unexpected places.
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