I recently discovered Ashoka, an organization that provides funding and support to social entrepreneurs around the world. Ashoka believes social entrepreneurs can’t change the world on their own — they need multifaceted, holistic support from all segments of society. That’s why Ashoka’s core vision is the advancement of an “Everyone a Changemaker” world in which all individuals create positive social change in their own unique ways.
Ashoka encourages and motivates everyday citizens to engage in changemaking by participating in anything from volunteering with a local social entrepreneur to lobbying the government around a specific social issue. The goal is for everyone, regardless of job, income, or social position, to play an active role in making the world a better place.
This radically democratic approach to social impact has revolutionary potential — not just within the realm of social entrepreneurship, but throughout a company. What would happen if we applied Ashoka’s philosophy to thought leadership within a company? If everyone has the inherent ability to contribute, certainly everyone is a potential thought leader, whether he’s a low-level salesperson speaking to a small group or an HR director speaking to new recruits.
Think about it. Your team is a mosaic of perspectives, experiences, and ideas. Each has a unique voice, and every employee has access to distinct professional networks and social circles that can fuel your content distribution efforts. Yet so many companies are quick to silence anyone without a chair in the C-suite. Why?
The truth is that your employees are already thought leaders. Thought leadership isn’t just about writing articles or speaking at conferences — it’s the fundamental act of communicating ideas, whether that’s to an audience of one or 1 million.
Everyone on your team is a thought leader, it’s the act of communicating ideas, to audience of 1 or 1M.
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Even if you’ve selected a single person to speak for your company, your brand is actually represented by a diverse, fluid body of voices. Attempting to selectively silence them is counterproductive; you’ll simply end up creating dissonant noise. Even worse, you’ll be wasting one of your most valuable executive branding assets.
If you nurture your employees’ individual abilities to communicate the essence of your brand, their voices will come together in a harmonious way. Think of it as if you’re conducting a choir — every voice adds depth, nuance, and power. Harness this, and you’ll expand your company’s reach exponentially.
On a practical level, this means training every team member to be a well-informed educator. That’s why at Influence & Co., we provide staff with free subscriptions to the best industry publications, and we constantly circulate and discuss insightful articles around the office. We also bring in outside experts to lead companywide workshops on important skills. Not only that, but our team also creates customizable resources for our clients and blog network, such as our content promotion template, to help streamline their social media efforts across their teams. The greater our collective knowledge, the stronger our collective voice.
But investing in learning is just one part of the equation. It’s equally important to create spaces for staff to act as educators themselves. This could mean inviting employees to lead brown-bag lunch seminars, contribute to the company social media presence, or even share their knowledge and experiences through the LinkedIn publisher platform. The goal is for every team member to develop a voice that is authentic, distinct, and on-message.
Remember that your employees occupy the intersection between your brand and the outside world. By creating a culture of democratic thought leadership, you can ensure that every interaction — with leads, partners, recruits, and the public at large — will be enriching and inspiring. Plus, your employees will develop a sense of pride, connecting them to the company on a profoundly emotional level.
Your employees occupy the intersection between your brand and the outside world via @tweetjohnhall
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When you realize for the first time that you have the power to make a difference, it can be a transformative experience. Provide this opportunity to your entire team, and it could change everything.
This post originates on Forbes