You get the request in public relations all the time: “I want to be a thought leader.” The problem is that saying it – even wanting it really badly – doesn’t make it happen. You have to earn it. You have to prove it. And that’s exactly what one client we work with did last week.
The client: a software services firm named Alliance Global Services. The situation: a competitor, Indian outsourcing giant Satyam, essentially became the Enron of India several weeks ago when its chairman confessed to inflating profits to the tune of more than a billion dollars over the course of several years. In the ensuing fallout, competitors all clambered to win over Satyam’s outraged clients.
Alliance could have simply piled on and joined the masses professing expertise, trustworthiness, and financial viability to anyone who would listen. But they wanted to do more than that. We helped them demonstrate leadership through the development of an IT Bill of Rights, intended to serve as a conversation starter for the creation of a new set of industry standards for IT vendor/client relationships.
The bill outlines ten new rules of engagement designed to ensure greater accountability and integrity among IT service providers and ultimately to restore confidence in the industry. A web site, www.ITBillofRights.org, was created to give others in the industry an opportunity to react, contribute to or simply join the effort in a show of support. Now Alliance is taking a leadership role and prompting and facilitating a conversation that will hopefully lead to real industry change.
Their leadership position has been recognized by clients and competitors and through coverage by top media, including BusinessWeek and Information Week among others. And that leadership position should be an asset in sales conversations going forward.
The lesson here is that real leadership is demonstrated through actions, not rhetoric. Companies can only become thought leaders if they earn it.