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“Thought leadership” is one of the major buzz words of the past few years. It means having other people look up to you as an expert and coming up with new ideas that are ahead of the curve.

A partner from another company recently referred to me as a thought leader in the lead management space.  While flattered by the comment, I responded that I was more interested in our team being known for “thoughtful leadership.”

What is thoughtful leadership?

Thought leadership to me is a grand notion. Follow me, I know best… But thoughtful leadership is the application of those concepts to best practices that will benefit our clients. It comes down to alignment, and seeing ahead to what our clients need.

Thoughtful leadership is a balance of being in the present and being forward thinking. We have to be ready to address our customers’ immediate needs, but also be insightful about their future needs to help them continue to grow and advance.

When we visit with clients, we ensure that our services are doing what the clients expect and then some, which sometimes includes offering additional services to help meet their goals. This mindset requires our account managers to be thoughtful leaders.

Thoughtful leadership includes listening; really knowing and understanding our clients’ pain points, processes and needs. Then we can align our partner with the appropriate technology and service to meet their goals.

How thoughtful leadership benefits clients

One of the most meaningful questions we ask new clients is, “How are you measured?  What does success look like in your position?” We’re not fishing for budget information or being nosy about salaries. We want to know how their organization defines success, and what successes have to occur for their employees to receive bonuses.  This helps us determine how we should align with the individual, their department, and the company.   We want to help teams achieve their goals – when our clients are successful, we’re successful.

Thoughtful leadership requires a level of client intimacy. We strive to move beyond being a “seamless extension of your services.” We have to work to understand our clients. We want to know if your goals include acquiring new business or generating revenue to meet investor’s expectations. We need to learn all we can to help us help you.

For example, one client shared with us in 2016 that their goal was for 10 percent of the leads we forwarded to the channel should convert to sales.  We adjusted our qualification and ranking algorithms to assure that only well-qualified opportunities were forwarded to the channel. When we know what your goals are and both parties are willing to have open, honest conversations, we can turn the knobs and twist the levers to achieve those goals.

We also use thoughtful leadership to work out new types of contracts, statements of work, and projects based on mutual trust and goal-setting. It opens the door for us to be more flexible with clients who have restricted budgets or restrictions that keep them from working with other, less flexible, partners. Thoughtful leadership allows us to align and work with the people who really need and want to work with us. It’s how we help.

We don’t want to be suppliers. We want to be trusted advisors. When a situation arises for which the client could benefit from our services, we’d be remiss not to offer those solutions in a helpful, relevant way. We feel comfortable doing so because we get to know our clients through direct conversation and online research. Building these relationships keeps our clients happy and keeps us close, conversational, and in a position to help them on a personal and professional level.