She stands at the front of the room exuding confidence.
Your companion leans over and whispers, "Remember when she was just another newbie? We all started out together, and back then, she didn't know any more than you or me, but look at her now!"
And you have to admit, she seems born to instruct -- or command. Fielding questions without a flicker of nervousness, explaining fine points with such personal assurance that no one questions her expertise. A natural leader.
Of course, in the back of your mind there's still a touch of reserve. She's not explaining anything you couldn't. But you have to admit, she just seems so doggone comfortable up there, so natural. So in-command of herself and the room.
Her confidence, however, which today seems so sure and unshakable, was almost certainly cast in a crucible of the same insecurities and self doubts you face every day.
In other words, that natural leader was made, not born.
Ever ask yourself why so many giant corporations invest so much money in books, tapes, seminars and coaching to train their people in leadership? Obviously there are many more slots for leaders than there are people to fill them. It's also obvious those huge companies aren't waiting around for enough leaders to be born. They create their own supply.
But that is only the first step in what we'll be talking about here.
Someone who rises to become an authority figure in any field, what are they but a leader -- an opinion leader. Furthermore, if they can manage to get themselves accepted as a leader in their industry, you could do the same thing.
We know that certain life experiences tend to spontaneously develop leadership qualities. If you have children, your parents probably watched as the birth of your firstborn threw you headlong into an exciting, scary new job -- raising a baby.
Remember that first child, and how uncertain you were during your initial few weeks as a new parent?
Now fast-forward two or three more kids. You are now a seasoned pro. You've become increasingly confident as you've carried out the daily routine of being a mother or father. Of course you're so close to the day-to-day experience that you may not have noticed the growth happening. You may still feel unsure and insecure inside. But ask your parents if they've seen any change in you.
Parenting, however, is not the only role that will stretch you. Any new role will cause you to grow, to expand your capabilities and your skills. Eventually you'll gain increased confidence in your ability to get the job done.
As you fill any new role, you gradually gain a certainty about your actions and decisions that you were lacking when you began.
Where does that confidence come from? In the case of parenting, it nearly always begins from years of observing your own parents and those of your friends. You model what you have seen.
Then stir in a lot of on-the-job training. You practice being a parent by doing the work, making the decisions, handling the crises, being right in the middle of it, day in and day out. You learn by making your share of mistakes, surviving them, correcting course and continuing on, a bit wiser for every wrong or right turn.
To your kids, you're (more or less) the boss. And you gained that stature simply by wading in and doing it. You made some goofups along the way, of course, but you also learned from most of them, so now you carry a degree of self assurance as you manage your family.
Within the small community of the family group, you are an authority figure.
Now let's take that principle and put it to work in your career. Given a little time and some concentrated effort, we can actually make you an authority figure on any subject, in literally any community -- professional or social -- by going through the same kind of process a new parent faces.
You simply dive in and start functioning at a level you think is over your head. You force yourself to stretch.
You can take specific steps to drill into yourself a belief that you're capable of doing the job. Those steps take you to where you begin seeing yourself as an authority.
There are similar steps that will implant your name uppermost in other people's minds. You do the things that authority figures do, and people will see you as the role you take on. Do this for a while, and soon the population around you will fully accept the face you show them.
If you specialize in widget tuning, for instance, we can train people to think of you -- and only you -- anytime the subject of widget tuning comes up.
We won't go into the steps in depth here. It's more important for you to develop an intense awareness that YOU can do this.
Bob Bly, in his book "Become a Recognized Authority in Your Field in 60 Days or Less," says:
"[Certain] people are gurus -- recognized authorities in their fields. Because of their guru status, they enjoy greater visibility and reputation than their peers, not to mention more success, income, and wealth.
"But they are gurus not because they are more talented or successful, or because their performance and track record are superior.... Instead, they gained their guru status through self-promotion and publicity. That is, they are gurus not because they are great at what they do, but because they are great at selling and marketing themselves and what they do."
Clearly, technical expertise is important. But that is not the crucial factor in this arena.
Your field -- whether widget tuning or nuclear physics -- will have many superbly qualified experts. But the most technically qualified person may not have the temperament or personal qualities to be THE guru or authority figure.
So what am I getting at, with all this talk about gurus and industry leaders? It should be obvious, but in case it's not, let's spell it out.
To become a technical whiz in your field, you study the technical stuff. Do that long enough and intensely enough, and you become an expert's expert.
But if you yearn to become a highly visible spokesman, an authority figure in your industry, you'll need to study and practice other skills. Skills like those outlined by Bly in his book. These include:
* Writing articles
* Writing books
* Producing and selling information products
* Publishing a newsletter or ezine
* Making speeches
* Giving seminars
* Conducting a public relations campaign
* Using the Internet
You'll notice that all of these avenues involve words and information to promote your visibility, accessibility and credibility.
Two final steps in Bly's outline are:
* Achieve critical mass, and
* Maintain guru status
These entail building and keeping your momentum through a steady program. In a word, persistence. You take these new skills and dive on in, start doing them, even if it feels like you're in over your head -- sort of like the new-parent feeling. And you keep on doing them.
However, when we take the task of becoming an authority figure and break it down into logical steps, it really isn't so complicated. It's only a bit different from the job you're doing now.
Cultivating visibility and public awareness -- why, that sounds like plain old marketing, doesn't it? Marketing ourselves as a sort of name brand product.
You're starting to get the picture now, right? Marketing ourselves and becoming recognized, even preferred, over other names is money in the bank.
Which do you think will command higher prices, a dress from Discount Warehouse, or one bearing a designer label from a shop on Rodeo Drive?
Now, there's nothing wrong with serving the Discount Warehouse market, but there's also nothing wrong with serving the upmarket, either.
And it is nice to have a choice. But if you never even consider the option of making yourself a brand name, or authority figure, you don't get a choice. It's Discount Warehouse or nothing.
You know what? Down there at the low end of the market, that's where the bulk of the competition is. There are a thousand discount warehouses selling what you sell.
If you ever want to stop competing with others, and instead let them worry about competing with you, consider making yourself known by everybody in your market.
Create visibility and become a recognized authority, a spokesman, maybe even a guru of sorts.
Then, instead of you having to chase clients, the game switches around, and the clients come looking for you.
Seems like a nice way to live, doesn't it?