New Podcast Episode: Take Your Thought Leadership to the Next Level with Peter Winick

What is “Thought Leadership?”

There’s the thought piece, and then there’s the leadership piece. Thoughtfulness could come from a variety of places. If you’re an academic, it comes from research. If you’re a business leader, it comes from experience of running a business, starting a business, growing a business, et cetera. It has to come from somewhere, you can’t just be repurposing or recoding pithy statements. 

And then there’s the leadership piece and this is where people often need a little bit more courage than they might be comfortable with. Where are you leading? The direction, the conversation, the discipline… what is the little bit of difference? Sometimes, you’re adding to a body of work that exists and leading that conversation, leading that discipline, leading that work into a new and maybe better or different direction.

How can we know that someone is a thought leader? A photo of podcast guest Peter Winick is inserted below a caption that reads, "Smith Publicity's All Things Book Marketing Podcast". Below Pete is a caption that reads, "Take Your Thought Leadership to the Next Level with Peter Winick".

You know they’re not if they identify as one. Don’t label yourself a thought leader. I always view that as something that others in your field have to bestow. It’s an outcome, not the objective.

There’s a difference between subject matter expert and thought leader. There’s someone out there that’s the world-renowned expert but not a thought leader. There are some behavioral characteristics. You’ve got to be curious. You’ve got to be passionate. You’ve got to be almost obsessed. You can’t fake this, right? Everyone that I work with is really smart, and it’s amazing to work with people at the top of their game. They live it and they eat it, and they breathe it—it’s where they’re at. 

On the external side, that’s a different question. What does it take to be successful? 

Is thought leadership a trend or an idea that evolves over time?

I’ve been doing this for over 20 years, and when I started the firm 15-16 years ago, the term that made me a little queasy was “guru.” Any term that gets buzzy has the potential to be overused and abused. Now, that being said, it’s more broadly accepted, almost expected, and there are different places where it makes sense to use a buzzy term. It’s changing and it’s always changing. 

There was the old-white-male-model, where every expert kind of looked the same, and it wasn’t good, it wasn’t representative. I’ve been in the marketplace for years, and I would always look at the keynote speakers and then the audience. The stage looks like one thing, but the audience is way more diverse. It’s changing, but there’s a pipeline problem. You can’t just come out there one day and say, “Now I’m a thought leader,” if you haven’t done the work and written the books and all that. 

There was this sort of North American arrogance that thought leadership is only an export. We don’t import good ideas, with some exceptions from Europe, and then nobody left their house for a couple of years, and we realized that an idea can come from anywhere, and often does come from elsewhere. 

Who are some examples of thought leaders today?

When I think of a thought leader, I am drawn to people like Selena Rezvani, who was on the All Things Book Marketing podcast last month. She is a Wall Street Journal bestselling author and confidence, workplace culture coach. She gets out there and she does her speaking, and she does her almost daily Instagram reels, TikToks, videos on social media, giving tips and advice and insights, and you can see that she lives and breathes confidence and wellness in the workplace. 

How does one become a thought leader?

Step one: you have got to have a strategy. Then you need to know with a high level of specificity who your target market is and who the client avatar is. Many thought leaders confuse the end-user, maybe the reader of the book, with the buyer. They’re two very different personas. Oftentimes, a lot of the things that we do on the marketing side of thought leadership is for that end-user, but we can’t do that at the expense of not effectively communicating to the buyer. The buyer might be someone bringing in an expert. Ultimately, that’s who has the authority/scope/budget to fund initiatives other than the book. Once you know where your market is, you go to where they are, which may not necessarily be social media. 

Someone may have everything they need to succeed as a thought leader, maybe they’re a big ideas person, and they have the thought, they have the ideas, they have the personality and the passion, but they need a plan. Our work starts with the development of a strategy, because it has been my experience over many decades that most thought leaders either operate without a strategy or with an antiquated one. But if you want to be in the business of thought leadership, you have got to have a strategy in place, and you have got to be able to stick to it. 

There are inputs and outcomes for a good strategy. Some of the inputs are your constraints as a thought leader: I want to travel. I don’t want to travel. I want to work with tobacco companies. I only want to work with these types of companies. Whatever those constraints may be. They don’t need to be rational or logical. 

Then there’s goals, and to me, goals are not one-size-fits-all. There’s an intrinsic element to goals. Like, I really love when I’m on delivering a keynote, and a week later, I get an email from someone that says, “You changed the way I look at the world.” Then there’s income goals. What’s the opportunity cost? What’s the investment I’m willing to make? What is the money I want to make? Then there’s exit goals. People don’t think enough as thought leaders around what this might look like for them in three years, five years, ten years—regardless of current age, current needs, etc. Am I building something that might have value to another entity at some point in time? That’s usually not a binary answer. 

Outcome includes thinking about who you are serving. How are you serving them? Do you have the product roadmap? This is where the number one mistake thought leaders make is. Has anyone ever completed a book on time or on budget? But you’ve got this book, and then what? And then people buy it. Okay, and then what? You need upfront, even before, way before you act, to have a vision. Who is going to buy the book, how can I reach them, and what do I want them to do after they buy it? Bring me in to speak, have me in to advise, license my tools—whatever the case may be, don’t wait until after publication, because you’re going to be in this whirlwind of book launch. 


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Peter Winick is the founder and CEO of Thought Leadership Leverage. For the past two decades he has helped individuals and organizations build and grow revenue streams through designing and growing their thought leadership platforms as well as acting as a guide and advisor for increasing business to business sales of thought leadership products. His clients come from a diverse set of backgrounds and specialties. They include New York Times bestselling business book authors, members of the Speakers’ Hall of Fame, recipients of the Thinkers50 award, CEOs of public and privately held companies, and academics at prestigious institutions such as Yale, Wharton, Dartmouth, and London School of Business. Peter has built his career and Thought Leadership Leverage to serve the needs of these individuals and others like them. Specifically he uses his entrepreneurial experience and spirit along with a passion for using relationships to leverage growth to help: CEOs, business owners, and internal practice leaders looking to grow revenue, revitalize marketing, and improve customer experience through applying the principles of thought leadership; Other business leaders and experts seeking to build out their ideas into a platform so they can launch content and products to create a lasting impact in various companies around the globe; and, “Traditional” thought leaders who want to build or grow their practice, increase their effectiveness in content creation and marketing as well as extend their reach into existing and new clients. Peter uses a combination of art, science, logic, focus, passion, and creativity to transform a thought leader’s great ideas into a platform and practice so they can effectively reach business leaders and executives to serve them the tools they and their organizations need. You can learn more at and follow Peter on X, LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook, and TikTok.