Thought Leadership Strategy: A 7-Part Framework

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In this episode we talk to Josh Steimle, Founder & CEO of Influencer Inc..

Thought leadership. This phrase gives me so much energy when I hear it. 


Because of the knowledge being shared and lives being changed. I believe everyone around the world has a message, story, or experience that can be shared and potentially change listeners’ lives along the way.

Whether it be through writing, video, or audio, I have found that there is always someone out there that needs that information and won’t listen to anyone else. 

Your unique experience and point of view is exactly what they need.

My job today is to teach storytellers like you how to get your message out there to an audience who needs to hear what you have to say.

So by now, you may be asking…

How do you develop a thought leadership strategy? You develop a thought leadership strategy by: 

  1. Vision – Understand your values, core roles and areas of focus
  2. Genius Zone – Where your two expert areas overlap 
  3. Audience – Narrow down your audience 
  4. Content – Focus on your message, channels and call to action
  5. Action – Plan for how you will take action
  6. Collaboration – Together you can do so much with one another
  7. Love – True goodwill for your audience

In this article, we are going to break down my 7-step thought leadership strategy. This was built by sitting back, understanding what I did, and spreading this knowledge so others can repeat. All the tools that are necessary to make you and your business better than it was yesterday are ready for you to soak in. Let’s get started thought leaders!

A 7-Part Framework

1. Vision

Do you want something? You need to have an idea that you want it, otherwise, you are never going to get it. This is what we call a vision. 

The more clear your vision can be of what you want, the more likely you are to achieve it. How can you make your vision clear? 

  • Understand your values
  • Core roles you enjoy
  • Areas you want to focus on

Sometimes we think we have this incredible vision, and while it may be incredible, the vision was for another person because it did not align with our values, core roles, and areas of focus. 

With these three things in mind, try to create your vision by turning the ideas in your head into a reality. 

These ideas can be big like: “I want to create a 10 million dollar company.” Or small like: “I want my 10-year-old to take out the trash today.” Both of these ideas are objective and require influence to become a reality!

Storytime: How clear visions can impact your behavior and change your life by Josh Steimle

There once was a mastermind group with a woman who was an index fund wizard. She raised funds with the swoosh of her wand to the tune of 8 billion throughout her career.

Source: Giphy

After sitting down with me, it was clear this index fund wizard did not find satisfaction raising funds for large companies anymore. 

In fact, she wasn’t happy for the last two years of her career. 

Her new vision was to help the underdog. She wanted to use her powers as an index fund wizard to take back a chunk of the funds allocated to large companies, and redistribute to smaller ones. 

After having a conversation with me, she then went on to a speaking engagement the next morning where she explained this new vision.

 A scary moment to say the least, but one that would change her life.

Soon after she stepped offstage, she was surrounded by people saying “I want to help you!” or “How can I get involved?” The support she had gathered from sharing her vision was powerful.

The index fund wizard went back to her company the next day and said “We are changing the direction of this company.”

Clarifying her vision was a huge step for her that let to action and changed the direction of her company and satisfaction in her job. Since then, she is well on her way toward success. 

This is a great example of how having a clear vision can impact behavior, can make changes, and can change your life. 

2. Genius Zone

I got this idea from reading a book called “The Big Leap” by Gay Hendricks. In this book, the idea is that we each have a certain overlap of skills, knowledge, or experience that make us unique. 

Genius Zone 101 

Example: I have run a marketing agency for the last 20 years and have gained quite a bit of knowledge. But compared to everyone else out there who knows marketing, I don’t know a lot! 

By itself, marketing isn’t my genius zone. Maybe an expert zone, but not a genius zone of mine. Why? Compared to seasoned veterans in the industry, I don’t know that much.

Example: To this day, I love the skateboarding industry. I know about the skateboarding industry having grown up in it, owned a skate shop back in the day, and even try with my now 10-year-old at the skatepark. 

By itself, skateboarding isn’t my genius zone. Maybe an expert zone, but not a genius zone of mine. Why? There are people in the industry who know far more than I do. 

This is where the magic happens! Where is the magic? The magic of the genius zone is that it’s in the overlap.

Now if I were to ask myself: “How many people in the world know marketing as I do and skateboarding as I do?”

When we overlap those two things, now that makes me unique. The reason being there are probably less than 20 people in the entire world who know those two things as deeply as I do. 

Marketing and Skateboarding. That is my genius zone. 

With this genius zone, I could go into Nike or Vans and be able to say “Hi, I have the marketing and skateboarding expertise to help you sell a tremendous amount of shoes to teenagers” and have the credibility to back that claims to make that pitch. 

That is the power of the genius zone! 

Weaknesses are KEY

The great thing I love about your genius zone is it’s not all about your strengths. Your weaknesses are also experienced that you can leverage as a part of your genius zone. 

For example, let’s say you are a terrible public speaker. By being a terrible public speaker, you are in tune with the challenges that terrible public speakers face. 

Let’s take it a step further and say you want to help people with their public speaking skills. You are now able to make that weakness a strength by combining it with other talents that you have and bring empathy into the situation. 

Adding empathy means you are going to reach people others simply cannot reach because they can’t empathize with that person. 

You have an edge as a person because you are able to understand something others can’t even see. That’s something not a lot of people are able to do!

Leverage your weaknesses as a part of your genius zone.

3. Audience

The biggest mistake people make with their audience is they try to go too broad and capture everybody. Instead, narrow down. 

Let me ask you this, how many new clients or listeners would you need to change your life? For a lot of people, the number is not that big!

That means there are more than enough clients, of your ideal clients, out there for you to only focus on your ideal client. 

That means instead of going after everyone, go after your ideal

My job is to help you narrow down, and then narrow down again. Think about all of the facets of your ideal client and narrow down. Here are a few questions to think about:

  • Take your best client, what does that look like?
  • Geographically, can you narrow clients down by country, state, or city?
  • Do you enjoy travel or prefer virtual client meetings?
  • Would you rather work with ready upfront capital or those who will use credit?
  • Do you prefer a client who is searching for your product or needs to be educated on your product? 

By narrowing down your ideal client to a level of granularity that may seem scary at first, you are making you and your businesses lean, strategic, and cost-efficient. 

Another benefit not a lot of people talk about is the energy you get from your audience. Whatever you want to be a thought leader around, you have to be excited and able to talk about what you are passionate about rather often. 

It is during this time you realize things will take energy and give you energy. If you are not energized when interacting and working with your audience, you will burn out. 

Find an audience that engages in a way that supports you and your energy levels. For example, does the idea of being on video make you anxious? (It’s okay, me too) Then maybe written content with an audience who writes is better for you!

Ask yourself, what is my preferred method of communication and how can I interact with my audience in that way? 

You want your audience to give you energy! An audience that energizes is an audience that will keep you and your business healthy. 

4. Content

Creating content without a vision, understanding of your genius zone, and grip on your ideal client is like setting sail on a boat without a rudder. You will be lost and not know who to target!

This is why the first 3 steps of this 7-Part framework are critical and set you up beautifully to create content that will move people and help you set sail in the right direction

Content is 3 things:

  • Your message – What are you saying?
  • Your channel – Where are you delivering it?
  • Your call to action – What do you want the audience to do?

When you have the right message, delivered to the right audience, the right way and at the right time, that is a quadruple threat! Everyone strives for this.

Take this article I wrote for example. At the time in 2013, SEO was exploding. I wrote the article for Forbes called “4 Tips For Hiring The Right SEO Firm” and had no idea it would then go on to bring me millions of dollars in business. How?

Think about it, if you are tasked with hiring an SEO firm, the first thing you google is “How to hire an SEO firm.” On Google, my Forbes article pops up as the first result and you think “This is the holy grail!”

After clicking through and reading the article, you realize the author owns an SEO firm. 

Then it clicks. 

Source: Giphy

If he owns an SEO firm and is writing for Forbes, maybe he knows what he is doing, let’s contact him for our business!


*mic drop*

By having the right audience, right message, delivered the right way, at the right time, you are able to replicate these results.  

5. Action

Action is your plan. We have all heard the saying “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” right? Often times, we see this when we have grand ideas and the follow-through isn’t there or is lackluster. 

In these moments, it means you didn’t have the right plan in place to make sure follow through would happen.

Action plans can be as simple or as complex as you need! Let me show you some examples

Simple Action Plan

Situation: You want to be an author and are currently writing a book. 

Action Plan: You will wake up and write for one hour every day.

Complex Action Plan

Situation: You are the head of marketing and have 20 marketing initiatives 

Action Plan: You will have a unique action plan make for all 20 marketing initiatives 

The point is, there is no universal plan that works for everyone! More so, you need a plan that works for you, or else you will not get the results you are looking for. 

How do you find a plan that works for you? Well, there are various methodologies out there that can help you on your journey. A few of my favorites are: 

  • The One Thing by Gary Keller
  • Big Rocks by Stephen R. Covey
  • Getting Things Done by David Allen

6. Collaboration

Similar to James Carbary, I love collaboration as well! You are able to create a thousand times the influence by collaborating with others than you can by yourself. 

Helen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” I believe this is so true, even today. 

It’s sometimes easy to look at individuals and think “Well, they don’t collaborate so why should I?” Authors are a great example… until you dig deeper. 

Let’s take J.K. Rowling. You may think she single-handedly created Harry Potter and it’s empire that followed. In reality, she didn’t do it alone. 

She was well connected to a lot of individuals who helped her with the series. You have her children who helped inspire her, her publisher who got the book out into the world, and all of the interactions with people who may have inspired character. 

Those are all collaborators!

Another great example is Harper Lee who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird. She is typically thought of as a quintessential lone wolf, influencer all by herself with a massive bestseller. To Kill a Mockingbird to this day is a classic and a novel that rocked literature. 

As much as we like to believe Harper Lee did it alone, she too had collaborators. 

She was working on writing but had never published a book. It was when she was working her typical 9-5 job, her two friends came to her and said: 

“Harper, we know there is a book in you that you need to get out and you are never going to get it out unless you quit your job.”

“We saved up a years’ salary for you and are giving it to you. We want you to take a year off and write a book.” 

Then, in 1960, To Kill a Mocking Bird was born. (Because she had collaborators!)

One more example is a little more personal to me. My friend Derek Anderson started an organization called Startup Grind. 

He was in the Bay Area, is an entrepreneur with startup experiences, and was really curious about the people who had succeeded with their startups and how they did it. 

So he decided to go on, make a meetup, invite some friends, invite a successful entrepreneur, and interview them for an hour. That day, 10 people showed up. 

Urged to do it again, Derek continued every month and the number of people kept growing. One day someone came up and asked “Derek, can I start doing these events like you’re doing on my own but with your brand?”

Can you guess what happened?

Startup Grind has over 700 chapters worldwide with the overall attendance in the millions. 


The power of collaboration. 

7. Love

You are probably reading this and doing a double-take confused as to why ‘love’ is the 7th part.

Shocking right? Yeah, it shocked me too. 

For a long time, this framework only had 6-parts. For a long time, I knew something was missing and I couldn’t put my finger on it. Here was my thought process: 



Those didn’t seem right. 

Maybe if I reorder the system it’ll make sense!

Nope, that didn’t do it. 

What if I look at it differently? *Puts on glasses*

No, something is still off, I know there is a 7th part out there. 

Then it hit me… LOVE.

I’m not talking about romantic love.

The love I’m talking about is empathy, understanding your audience, passion for the material, or a sense of excitement creating content. Love is all of these things. 

Love is true goodwill for your audience. 

People could care less about your brand if they know you care about them. That is where loyalty comes from. When they know you care, that makes all the difference in the world. 

The great thing about love is if you have half of all the other parts or are maybe missing a few, but you have love, the deficit almost doesn’t matter. You can still make an impact. 

Say you have all the other parts but don’t have love. People will sense that and feel as if everything is transactional. Their loyalty will be there up until the value is gone. Then they’ll be gone too. 

With love, you can make mistakes and people will stick with you. 

In Case You Skipped Right to the End

For those of you who are joining us as the bottom, welcome! We just finished going over my 7-Part Thought Leadership Strategy which is: 

  1. Vision
  2. Genius Zone
  3. Audience
  4. Content
  5. Action
  6. Collaboration
  7. Love

Now, I want to leave you with this.

There is this common misconception around thought leadership that you have to be slimy or you have to be slick like a car salesman with an agenda to sell something.

Trust me, you can be a thought leader with the intent to genuinely help people. Thought leadership is nothing more than getting your ideas out there in a way to benefit those listening. 

You don’t have to sell your soul or be self-serving. Pinky promise. Just be yourself. 

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James Carbary

Founder at Sweet Fish Media

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