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18 habits of the new influential

How to cut it among the world’s elite comms leaders

By Matthew Rock

1: YOU’VE DITCHED THE GOLF CLUBS AND GOT INTO CYCLING

The transformation of cycling from the gentle pastime of Oxford dons to the lifestyle choice of the 2017 elite leader has been something to behold (albeit with alarming Lycra lumps). As one influential contact of mine puts it on his LinkedIn profile: “When I get home, I ride my bike.” Presumably, that’s after he’s taken off his shoes and said hello to his family.

2: YOU INSPIRE CHANGE

Assuming that you’ve enjoyed a serious ‘crystallisation event’ (and who hasn’t?), you’ll now be an adviser or mentor. You certainly possess a ‘coaching style’. You sit on panels. Your advisory role may be on the board of governors for a new global coalition to inspire more falafel consumption, a groundbreaking sustainable-energy project, or your own high-impact foundation.

3: YOU ARE IMPERVIOUS TO RULES AND LAWS

While you sit on a couple of government panels and have assiduously developed your high-level contacts, you’re disdainful of authority itself. You’ve got a (currently silent) sympathy with the idea that it could all be done better by algorithms and machine learning – like in Estonia. That said, if you were invited to take part in the ‘Tomorrow’s government’ programme at Davos you’d definitely consider it, as long as there’s good skiing on offer.

4: YOU HAVE THE TALK

To discover how the New Influential see themselves, I used Textalyser to analyse the ‘background’ sections of their LinkedIn profiles. The people I examined had at least 500 contacts; some had many more. These are the sort of people who start, build and sell companies – and then have breakfast, with green tea. Among the most common words were: entrepreneurial, adviser, co-founder, investor, change (as in ‘drive change’), technology, fintech, scaling (you don’t just start companies you ‘scale’ them grrr…) collaborative, growth, innovative, London, board, capital and world. You get the picture. To join the inner circle, try updating your LinkedIn profile to: ‘A successful and passionate entrepreneurial leader who scales fintech start-ups in London and globally, and who advises and invests in other start-up entrepreneurs.’

5: YOU’RE A LIFESTYLE GURU

Your blog, which focuses on lifestyle and food tips, was inspired by your traumatic personal journey, during which you overcame many challenges, mainly with gluten. Like Gwyneth Paltrow, you’ve channelled these toxic experiences into a range of own-brand lifestyle products, and are now desperately looking for a VP of marketing who can persuade someone to stock them.

6: TEETH

You’ll have good teeth. In fact, they’ll be jaw-droppingly good. All go-getters’ teeth have received significant investment.

7: YOU’LL BE A MEMBER OF THE ROTARY CLUB

No, not that one, you muppet – the special concierge package for high-net-worth individuals that comes with your very expensive watch. (An awesome watch is de rigueur for the New Influential.)

8: YOU ARE CONSCIOUSLY CASUAL

You’ve ditched old-school protocols such as addressing people by their names. Instead, you start your Slack messages and emails with a chirpy ‘Hey’. You expect an immediate ‘Hey’ back. Your standard clothing is a T-shirt and chinos. You have a suit somewhere but only wear it if your mother is watching.

9: ANY DECISIONS YOU MAKE ARE EVIDENCE-DRIVEN

Your passion and collaborative spirit shine through to anyone fortunate enough to meet you, but your decisions are always informed by data points. You are basically a big, cuddly human algorithm.

10: YOU HAVE AN AWE-INSPIRING BACK STORY

Under no circumstances should your life to date be seen as ‘privileged kid has easy ride through decent education and effortlessly sets up successful business’. It should be an inspirational journey during which you overcame huge odds to realise your dream. Exhume your inner hurt.

Remember that, deep down, you are a humble storyteller. If in doubt, start your narrative in your ‘back bedroom’ (that normally does the trick).

11: YOU OCCASIONALLY GET SUED BY YOUR FRIENDS

Among the New Influential, nothing is more vexed than the notion of ‘founder’. To have founded a successful venture, as well as a couple of glorious failures, is the ultimate badge of the brave. (It’s fine if you only ‘founded’ your book club group, although you may want to dress this up as a ‘peer-to-peer community learning project’.) Your LinkedIn profile should be liberally peppered with co-founder credentials.

Anyway, Happy Founders Club is fine as long as everyone is still friends. But groundbreaking enterprises do sometimes break people into the ground, and ‘venture money’ has a nasty habit of running out. That’s when things can get nasty. The backstories of snapchat, Pinterest, Tesla, Facebook and Twitter all contain vicious feuds.

Ultimately, these are only treatable with a large cheque or bountiful slice of equity. “Hey, dude, good to have you back…”

12: YOU’LL BE ULTRA-FIT

Still enjoy a quiet smoke and a liquid lunch? LOSER. Look what happened to Nick Clegg after he confessed to the odd ciggie. To join the ranks of the New Influential, you need to be in training for an Ironman or an extreme Japanese running challenge. And you need to boast about it regularly on social media.

13: INSPIRATION

You’ll quote inspirational aphorisms. This kind of thing: ‘FOCUS is to company building what LOCATION is to building.’ Nice.

14: YOU DON’T DO REGULATION MEETINGS

Your limited attention span won’t endure weekly catch-ups or hour-long brainstorming sessions. Like Yahoo boss Marissa Mayer, you prefer high-intensity 10-minute slots. In these, underlings get the opportunity to listen to your inspirational, collaborative coaching techniques.

15: YOU’RE PASSIONATE

You’re passionate about work, you’re passionate about transforming your industry, you’re passionate about economic empowerment… You’re passionate about your football team and express this by occasionally attending matches in your lovely warm executive box. You’re particularly passionate about your children, although they don’t always appreciate this: “But, mum, I’ve already done six evenings of extra mandarin this week…”

16: YOU’RE A SPEAKER

To demonstrate your passion for your subject, you’ve done a TED Talk about it. This contains neuroscience insights and has had thousands of views and gushing comments from your colleagues. It may have spawned a blog (or even a new religion). You should share videos of your regular appearances on thought leadership panel discussions. You can be persuaded – for a modest contribution to your charity – to give keynote presentations, which will be very inspiring, and delivered as you walk around without notes.

17: YOU LOOK DOWN ON TRADITIONAL NINE-TO-FIVES

You like your own employees to turn up on time. You, however, work to your own free-spirited riff. You’re always available for a Facebook Live session, even when you’re scuba diving in the Maldives for the weekend.

18: YOU THINK UNREALISTICALLY BIG

You’ve always thought big, but, after the soaraway success of your most recent venture, you’ve moved to the next level.

You see your role as challenging convention. Dare to dream, you tell your team. When your sales director promises a record-breaking next quarter, it’s your role to inspire her to go to the next level. You want 10x growth. She will love you for this.

Among the Super Influential, big dreams are becoming HUGE VISIONS. An end to one nasty disease? No, let’s end all diseases. Travel to the moon? No, let’s shoot for Proxima b. Get reliable broadband on South West Trains? Erm, next question, please…


A version of this article was originally published in Influence magazine, Q1 2017.

Image courtesy of wikimedia

Posted in Editor's Picks, Public Relations
One comment on “18 habits of the new influential
  1. Pinky says:

    Great article Matthew!

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