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Are “Stars in Your Eyes” Limiting Your Thought Leadership Success?

Heard the Roar of the Crowd

I recently joined some friends for a local karaoke night. Mid-way through, one enthusiastic singer with a wavering voice chose Foreigner’s 1981 hit “Juke Box Hero,” an anthem of karaoke singers who, when on stage, get to envision themselves as Lou Gramm belting out the chorus to a crowd of fans:

And be a juke box hero, got stars in his eyes, he’s a juke box hero . . .
Juke box hero, (stars in his eyes) he’ll come alive tonight

He’s a juke box hero, he’ll come alive tonight

And, at that moment, it struck me. Many of us get sucked into the “Juke Box Hero” challenge within thought leadership. We get stars in our eyes, and it impacts our thought leadership efforts.

Gonna Make It to the Top

We want to get noticed. We want clients, colleagues, and leaders to have our name on their mind. That’s why there’s a steady diet of great thought leadership advice published in social media, business journals, and even professional magazines.

But when we read thought leadership articles, we rarely think about the years of hard work ahead, instead, we daydream about the rewards. We’re convinced that if we simply launch our thought leadership campaign, then somehow magic will happen.

 We will quickly get noticed and boost our careers;

Red carpets unroll at our feet; and

We’ll be whisked away on private jets to a higher plane of professional existence.

These myths, cognitively, come from the same part of our brains that tell us we can enjoy nightly bowls of ice cream and still keep trim waistlines. During our reverie, the rewards seem sweeter and more immediate; we easily downplay the challenges of disciplined effort.

When we get stars in our eyes, our behaviors change. We latch onto certain milestones towards “success,” and we give them far more weight than they deserve.

Gotta Keep on Rockin’

It doesn’t matter whether you’re writing your first blog or you’ve stood in front of a massive main stage audience, the “Juke Box Hero” myth repeatedly tempts us all.


Speakers at a TEDx aspire for that coveted TED main stage. Then, there’s the annual World Business Forum at Radio City Music Hall, the Lollapalooza of business thought leadership. Accomplished speakers will jockey for a ten-minute wedged between Sir Richard Branson and Condoleezza Rice—hoping the exposure will lift them to the next level.


Until recently business-book authors competed to see who could get the largest advance or stay on the New York Times best-seller list the longest. But both book advances and best-seller lists are now quickly-fading memories. Today authors zealously compare their numbers of followers on social media.

There’s really no magic moment within the world of thought leadership where you’re ushered into a world of screaming fans and elaborate contract riders—complete with candy dishes where all the brown M&Ms have been painstakingly removed.

That’s why people love the fantasy of karaoke—for a thrilling four minutes they’re transformed into a rock star without ever crafting song lyrics, sleeping in vans, or playing to empty bars for $40 and a free beer.

The long grind of thought leadership isn’t all that different. There’s little glamour when you finally land at 2 a.m. in a town without a name in a heavy downpour. You’re just eager to crawl into bed and get those three hours of precious sleep before you meet with the client in the morning.

Most everyone gets “stars in their eyes” when they think about what successful thought leadership could mean for their career, finances, or lifestyle. It’s an incredibly human response. However, those stars can serve as a motivator or a barrier.

The question becomes a simple one. Are you just singing karaoke with your thought leadership? Or are you gonna keep on rockin’ until you make it to the top?

Bill Sherman works with thought leaders to launch big ideas within well-known brands. He is the COO of Thought Leadership Leverage. Visit Bill on Twitter

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