Thought leadership is all about introducing new ideas and developing new concepts, so it’s important to make it known that you’re an available resource. If someone needs a subject matter expert in your industry, make time to be the one they consult. Answer emails or messages on various platforms to continue to form relationships. Be available to consult to show your truly interested in your niche and projection of the industry going forward.
Giulia Umile is currently the Chief Operating Officer at Slice Communications. Giulia’s background in sales and business development for startup tech companies provided her with the avenue to discover her passion, client services in communications. A focus on client trust and innovative ideas have propelled her success. Giulia graduated Susquehanna University with a Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations. She entered the communications field working for Philadelphia tech companies such as ZenQMS, WizeHive, and The Neat Company before her executive position at Slice Communications. Outside the office, she enjoys teaching CrossFit at CrossFit Novem and spending time in Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
I spent over 15 years at startup tech companies in the Greater Philadelphia Area. It was an incredible learning experience. Joining a company from the very beginning is not an opportunity most people get to take advantage of. My colleagues became my mentors (and my friends) and remain so, even today. My roles were mostly focused on business development, however at one point I was able to transition to client service and realized it was truly a passion of mine.
Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?
Everything I do is based on a relationship. In order to have a successful relationship, there must be a high level of trust. I have found significant success through earning the trust of clients. Showing someone your expertise, having them understand you care about the same things they care about, goes a long way in building those relationships-especially early on. I have established that trust in many business relationships which has led to agency growth.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
During Pride month this year, I had the privilege of speaking at Venture Café’s LGBTQ-focused Thursday Gathering. As the LGBTQ community does not always receive the respect it deserves, it was great to speak alongside an array of innovators about our experiences across various industries. Authenticity and identity were the overarching themes in our discussions, and it was interesting to hear everyone’s different perspective. Each innovator was able to share their vision of how inclusion will be defined as we look to the future.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I was given a lot of responsibility fairly early in my career so trust me there were mistakes! At a very young start-up company, we actually burned our own CDs in the office that contained the software installation we packed inside of our consumer product. Unfortunately, someone from the marketing team used our CD burner to make a copy of some marketing material without my knowledge. I ended up burning a few hundred copies of what I thought was a new software install, packed it into boxes, and shipped it to customers. We only realized the mistake when customers started calling our help line about it. We reacted quickly and decided we were going to approach it with a sense of humor. We quickly created a download link for the software, took a photo of our lead tech support agent with a sign that read, “We’re sorry!”, and emailed the photo along with the download link to everyone who had purchased recently.
I’ll admit I was terrified of what my bosses would say when they learned about the mix-up. Much to my surprise, they barely reacted at all. We had already addressed the issue, had a remedy, and they appreciated our “human” approach to it. That day, I learned a little more about what it means to be a great leader. Making mistakes is inevitable; Solving the problem is the most important thing.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define what a ‘Thought Leader’ is. How is a thought leader different than a typical leader? How is a thought leader different than an influencer?
I think my definition of thought leadership is a working one, but right now I’m defining a “Thought Leader” as someone with a unique perspective on how the industry can be changed and the experience to back it up. A Thought Leader utilizes knowledge of what the industry was, analyzes the way it currently is, and illuminates the possibilities for the future. They challenge people with complex ideas and helps shape how the industry thinks moving forward.
Regarding the differences between a typical leader and a Thought Leader, Thought Leaders are those who tackle big ideas with a large audience. Personally, I want my ideas to spark change and conversations between my audience and other professionals in the industry.
I strive to have influence, but would not consider myself to be an influencer. I think that influencers are concerned with producing content that draws a high quantity of views and likes. While those things are important, thought leaders are more focused on producing quality content educates the audience it reaches. My intent is to share the ideas I am passionate about and hopefully inspire a similar passion with those who choose to follow me.
Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming a thought leader. Why do you think it is worthwhile to invest resources and energy into this?
Becoming a Thought Leader gives industry professionals the opportunity to use their knowledge and passion to help connect with others. A credible reputation accompanies the status of thought leader; it is a position gained through trustworthiness and sustained through intriguing insights. Having established a sense of trust, I have had a chance to shape the industry and introduce new ideas. By investing thought leadership I am investing in the industry I am immersed in and want to see thrive.
Let’s talk about business opportunities specifically. Can you share a few examples of how thought leadership can help a business grow or create lucrative opportunities?
As a thought leader, you become a pioneer for industry trends. Your name becomes recognizable and your work establishes your credibility. Recognition can help connect you with clients and provide you with new opportunities with individuals or companies who think similarly
Ok. Now that we have that behind us, we’d love to hear your thoughts about how to eventually become a thought leader. Can you share 5 strategies that a person should implement to become known as a thought leader in their industry. Please tell us a story or example (ideally from your own experience) for each.
- A key step is defining what your area of expertise is. Choose your niche, fully master one area of expertise, and get to know the audience.
- After becoming acquainted with those ideas, see how your existing content compares. This will give you a specific idea where your unique voice will make the most impact.
- Create impassioned content, so your voice and ideas are clear. Content tackling new ideas and big concepts will make it stand out while generating something to talk about. Spark the conversation!
- Consistency is crucial to securing a thought leadership position. Content should be produced regularly to maintain relevance and kept in the vein of initial compositions.
- Thought leadership is all about introducing new ideas and developing new concepts, so it’s important to make it known that you’re an available resource. If someone needs a subject matter expert in your industry, make time to be the one they consult. Answer emails or messages on various platforms to continue to form relationships. Be available to consult to show your truly interested in your niche and projection of the industry going forward.
In your opinion, who is an example of someone who has that has done a fantastic job as a thought leader? Which specific things have impressed you about that person? What lessons can we learn from this person’s approach.
Ruba Abu-Nimah is considered a marketing whiz, and she’s a fantastic example of being a thought leader. She was Elle’s first female creative director, and she has been recruited by so many companies to collaborate. Ruba works in the beauty industry and constantly challenging beauty standards. Born in the Middle East and working out of New York, she incorporates diversity of all types into her campaigns. She has reshaped marketing by utilizing simple concepts accompanied by bold designs. Ruba understands what catches the eye, but consistently takes risks. Her experimentation undertaking big ideas is why she is viewed as a leader who pushed boundaries in visual marketing.
I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?
Thought leadership can be overused, but it is way more than just a buzzword and I feel like people are aware of that. Thought leadership is a group of emerging innovators carving out a space for themselves in an industry rather than within a company or location. I think if we use it to label the mentioned individuals it will become a powerful concept, not just a trite buzzword.
What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
Exhaustion stems from being overworked Developing a strong team to absorb some of the workload can alleviate the potential for burnout. You can also focus on projects that you are particularly passionate about to affirm your passion for what you do. Finally, establish an outlet outside of work. I love CrossFit. It’s my space to focus on myself, clear my mind, and release any frustration. Clarity and vigor are easier to achieve after time spent diverting energy away from work.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
It would have to be the principle of inherent human rights. Human rights should be all encompassing and have no limit nor stipulation. Gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, ethnicity, should have no bearing on how someone is treated. I strive to further this idea, and the spreading of the movement would be a monumental accomplishment.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Robert Frost wrote, “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.” No matter what mistakes are made or challenges arise, life will continue. And because life goes on, you should be bold and unafraid to take risks.
We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)
It would be Hilary Clinton. As someone who devoted her entire life to a goal that did not come to fruition, I want to talk with her about the passion that required and how she has been able to move on. She is so influential still. I would love to get an idea about how she recovered and what she learned along the way. I am sure those insights would benefit anyone who was privileged to hear them.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful.