Tom Schulte is the Executive Director of Linked 2 Leadership, a global group dedicated to leadership development, organizational health, and personal and professional growth. He is also editor, publisher, and author of the company’s very popular Blogazine and newsletter, which reaches 1.5 million subscribers.
On top of these positions,Tom is also the CEO of Recalibrate Professional Development, a firm that specializes in leadership training by emphasizing value-based relationships. In addition, Tom has a long history in sales and internet marketing, including the successful use of social media in business.
MO: Can you tell us more about your background and how it led you to creating the Linked2Leadership brand?
Tom: In 2003 as a sales and marketing guy for over 20 years, I fell in love with the topic of leadership when I went to work for leadership guru Dr. John C. Maxwell. In my brain, the very best leaders do exactly what the very best sales people do: They show up as givers and are ready to teach, not preach. I started my own firm doing short-format leadership training in 2007 with a desire to grow through a train-the trainer offering. This led me to LinkedIn to search for professional trainers to sell my program to. But rather than being a LinkedIn stalker, I decided to do what I teach people to do: show up as a giver. So I started the Linked 2 Leadership Group (L2L) to develop content and resources. Many of these are free to leverage knowledge and experience to help others learn, grow, and develop other leaders. The goal is to expand to be the central point and hub for information and resources for leadership development, organizational health, and personal & professional growth,
MO: Many people don’t understand the value of LinkedIn groups. Can you give a quick LinkedIn group 101 lesson to our readers on why this is valuable and how they can make the most of LinkedIn groups?
Tom: LinkedIn groups can be a terrible experience if they are filled with self-promoting spammers and (what I call) “shmarketers” who are allowed to use the place for promotions. I have 5 “L2L Deputy Sheriffs” who patrol the LinkedIn Group’s Discussion area to keep it clean, safe, and fun for all the participants. People who don’t play nice on our playground are promptly removed so that the experience can be one where global professionals come to learn, grow, and develop other leaders. In addition to being a pleasant place to hang, we give away a lot of free resources and information to help people. The L2L Group gets about 150 new members each week and I ask about 20% of them to serve as Contributing Authors on our Blog called “Linked 2 Leadership: the Leadership Collaboratory.” This allows them the ability to gain exposure for their content and their practices and allows readers the opportunity to get to know them, their experience and their heartbeats. The key is to involve the active, the passive, and everyone in between so that they are attracted to stick around.
MO: You have an email list of over 1.6 million is that correct? That’s amazing from an email-marketing standpoint! How have you connected with this many people and what kind of information do you share with them?
Tom: My positioning as a platform provider for other leadership experts has made me an attractive place for a lot of professionals who want to grow their businesses, sell their programs, launch a book, or connect with a broader base of people with similar interests. This has provided me with marketing partners who have lists of people who want the information I have, and want it in a concise, intelligent, and filtered manner. We are launching a weekly publication called LeaderBrief Leadership Newsletter to this large group to help them stay on top of leadership news, resources, links, executive jobs, and special deals to help them learn, grow, and develop other leaders.
MO: From a business standpoint most of our readers will want to know – how do you make money off of the Linked2Leadership brand?
Tom: When the Linked 2 Leadership LinkedIn group started, it was highly important to me how the online community and those who became members would receive the initiative. I wanted every member to feel welcome, appreciated, and enabled. So I immediately assembled a team of 12 Board of Directors to make sure that we approached the group with a Servant Leadership perspective. This also held true when I started the L2L Blogazine months later. A big part of this was to make sure that members felt safe from sales pitches and overt advertising or marketing messaging so that the focus could be on adding value. My only goal was to build trust by showing up as a giver. Now, with a platform of trust built, we are moving to open up monetization through advertising, sponsorships, affiliate marketing, L2L branded products and services, premium club membership site(s), and other value-added services. The multi-year effort to build trust without a revenue base has been monumental, but we think that the foundation of trust is most important for long-term economic viability.
MO: The articles on your site touch every aspect of leadership! What is your definition of a leader?
Tom: Leadership is defined as “getting stuff done through other people.” The best leaders do this selflessly.
MO: What are your next goals for Linked2Leadership? Do you foresee having events around the community in the future?
Tom: We have a huge vision for what L2L will become. We are rolling out the LeaderBrief Leadership Newsletter, the L2L Spotlight on Excellence special feature flyer, the L2L Book Club, L2L Webinars, L2L Events, L2L Radio Network (internet), advertizing and sponsorship opportunities, L2L Marketplace, L2L Executive JobLink, LeaderBrief Club Level membership, and more. It is a very exciting time to be in this marketplace.
MO: What advice can you give to our readers for becoming a better leader in any aspect of their life?
Tom: My greatest advice is to always think of yourself as a student and never the professor. In this, you will be more interested in learning than in preaching. Also, leaders are readers. And nothing is more important in leadership that building healthy relationships. Continue to have a heartbeat for others and always continue to learn, grow, and develop other leaders, and you will see your sphere of influence continue to grow.
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