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How World-Class Chefs Epitomize Thought Leadership (And How You Can Do The Same)


chef making food

Have you ever tried explaining something over and over again, using a bunch of examples and “for instances,” and still failed to effectively illustrate your point?

Then, somewhat out of the blue, you come across the most unassuming parallel that perfectly sums up exactly what you’re trying to prove, leaving you stuck asking, “Why couldn’t I think of that?”

Well, that happened to me recently.

I’ve been writing what it takes to become a Thought Leader for the past year-and-a-half, trying to justify why sharing what you know is the only way to build an organic following and separate yourself as an industry leader.

I’ve used plenty of examples to articulate my point, emphasizing how personal storytelling and vulnerability shows authenticity—and how authenticity is the only way to truly connect with an audience.

But no matter which way I put it, I didn’t feel like I was really conveying the message I wanted to.

Last week, I came across the perfect parallel as to why sharing what you know is the only way to become a Thought Leader while reading REWORK by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson.

Their example?

Thought Leaders need to emulate chefs.

You might be thinking, “How so?”

Think of it this way: How do world famous chefs reach their “world famous” status? Why are Emeril Lagasse and Gordon Ramsay household names in the culinary sphere?

Because they share everything they know.

Look at any famous chef and you’ll see the same thing: countless cookbooks, magazine features, and likely their own show on the Food Network.

Actually, it’s hard to find a renowned chef who hasn’t put out a recipe book of some sort.

Chefs know what they’re good at and realize there are tons of people who want to learn those same skill sets. They capitalize off of that need by providing answers based off of their expertise—separating themselves in the culinary world by constantly sharing what they know.

In fact, it’s the only way they’re able to separate themselves.

For example, if an up-and-coming chef wrote a book about all of they’re best meals, but kept all of his recipes to himself, would you buy his book?

Of course not!

There’s no value in a chef talking all about the delicious food they’re able make without teaching you how to actually do it yourself.

Thought Leadership is no different.

If you want to be recognized as an industry leader, you need to add value to your industry by sharing what you know on a regular basis.

Use your personal experiences and expertise to teach, not flaunt. Publishing articles about happenings at your company or talking about how “disruptive” your new technology is won’t get you recognized as an valuable member of your industry. Giving your audience all of your “recipes” is what resonates.

Again, a chef talking about how great her eggplant parm is does little for the person interested in making it if she doesn’t actually teach them how.

What matters—and where the value is—is in the chef’s detailed explanation of ingredients and the process that goes along with prepping, cooking, and serving the meal.

Whether you’re a founder, C-suite executive, senior-team member, or just someone with a unique, sought-after skill set, know this:

People want to learn from you.

They want to know what it takes to do what you do.

They want to know how they can to get to your position one day. They want to know what you read, watch, and listen to. They want to know how you network, how you overcome adversity, how you seize opportunities.

So make like a chef and teach them. Find out exactly what people want to know from you, and give them your recipes.

It’s the only way to separate yourself as an industry Thought Leader.

Experience is life’s greatest teacher. Writer, advice-giver, and former collegiate student-athlete. Music fan but a hip-hop fanatic. Also, please travel.

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