Have you ever got jazzed up from watching one of those TED Talk videos?
It happens to all of us. There are great ideas and people behind them. We love to witness the grand display of storytelling and the results.
Most talks end with a big call to action to get their inspired audience to do something about what they just saw on stage.
That’s part of the point of the talk. There was a problem, the speaker solved it, and now it’s your turn to do your part or spread the word.
But when it’s all over, do we do anything about it besides praise it momentarily?
Sure, we learned something, clapped for it, and now we feel 2% smarter for investing out time in the talk. However, how many people actually go out and extend the presenter’s efforts?
• If it’s about donating to a cause, do we donate money or get others to do so?
• If it’s about creating better habits, do we try to put their theory into actual practice and fix our habits?
• If it’s about teaching creativity in schools, do we go out and volunteer to do an aspect of that in a public school?
As you might guess, the answer is probably no.
I’ve taught across the country in various public high schools and universities. Sometimes I showed a clip or even an entire TED Talk video. I always conclude with a discussion and a survey. In these surveys, students rarely are compelled to take the first step that very day. Why?
For the most part, I don’t think it’s because people are lazy. Some are, but I think most people want to do good and do their part. The TED Talk could just be the start of the conversation and there could be a few first steps the audience is not aware of.
However, something else is missing. It’s not just listening and learning that got the presenter on the stage. It was action. It was pure execution. That’s the role the audience must play if they ever want to see progress with what inspired them.
Thought leaders today are a dime a dozen. Everyone has access to a platform and everyone has ideas. If you have a good idea or you’re persuasive, you’re dubbed an unofficial thought leader. Ta da!
But thoughts and ideas come and go. What’s left?
I used to think that thought leaders were the same thing as change agents. But after observing lots of speeches, expert panelists, and conference participants that’s no longer the case.
As entrepreneurs or careerists, everyone is told to position themselves as experts–even if they’re not experts!
There must be action behind those inspiring words and tall tales.
I think thought leaders graduate to change agents by getting back into the trenches and helping others achieve remarkable results.
These agents are the great coaches, teachers, mentors, and trainers of the world. They’re not slick keynote speakers–though most of them could hold their own on a stage–they are craftspersons with a grander agenda than to be seen as another expert. They are an expert plus a catalyst to help others achieve similar results.
You see, most of us are persuaded by charismatic people who offer their alluring, story-like anecdotes. “I was poor and now I’m rich!” “I was fat and now I’m thin.” “I was a failure and now I’m a winner.” “If you just follow exactly what they did, you too can be a champion too.” The anecdotal “proof” suggests that you be like the person who went through all of this.
It’s a compelling argument, but far from scientific or meritorious.
The truth is, we’re all very different. We have different circumstances and different background. We have different strengths and weaknesses.
While general models and frameworks are a great place to begin a change, it’s not a blueprint for success until it’s customized completely for you.
This is precisely why to achieve difficult things, you often need a catalyst for change. Again, these change agents come in the form of a coach, mentor, etc. It would be nice if all you needed was to watch a great video and your life would change completely, but that’s usually not the case.
You need accountability and help to get you to the next level.
And if you’ve achieved the next level, you can become a change agent for others.
When you’ve done this for many people with predictable success, you’re not only a change agent, but an expert and leader too.
Leadership begins in the trenches and goes all the way to the top. It’s not a top-down route which is the approach of many so-called thought leaders.
To be a great leader, you have to be more than an inspirational speaker. You have to be able to lead change, whether the masses hear about it or not.
It’s about doing the work and sharing your incredible value to the world to make it a better place. That’s what a true influencer does.
You don’t need a stage. You just need a tribe and a mission.