“5 Things You Should Do to Become a Thought Leader in Your Industry”, With Kevin Clark, Executive…

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“5 Things You Should Do to Become a Thought Leader in Your Industry”, With Kevin Clark, Executive Director at Wynn Nightlife

Innovation and expertise monetizes through business growth. The more knowledge you acquire the more efficient you will be in all your business practices. That will allow time for you to think far beyond the road you are already on. Innovation and proper time management is at the core of all lucrative opportunities.

I had the pleasure to interview Kevin Clark. Kevin is a seasoned executive with over 16 years of corporate event and entertainment experience. Well-versed in nightlife marketing and day-to-day club operations, Kevin has a comprehensive understanding of foundational business development and a profound knowledge of music and celebrity trends. This synergy has led to a strong grasp on event production and corporate branding. Prior to Las Vegas, he spent seven years in New York City activating national celebrity events throughout the United States with high-end clients, including Bvlgari, GQ, Louis Vuitton, U.S. Open, and Vogue Magazine. Upon relocation to Las Vegas, Kevin played a critical role on the opening teams for Pure Nightclub, LAX Nightclub, Hakkasan Nightclub, HQ Nightclub and Omnia Nightclub. Now, as Executive Director of Talent and Programming for Wynn Nightlife, Kevin leads the talent department that is responsible for hiring and maintaining the most prestigious and diverse artist line up in the country.

Thank you so much for doing this with us Kevin! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

I have worked in the nightlife industry for over 16 years, and I’m currently the Executive Director of Talent and Programing at Wynn Las Vegas. I was born in Africa and lived in eight different countries before moving to the States. Painting was my first true love, until my brother got me into electronic music. In the late 90’s I started DJ’ing parties and by 2002 I founded my first record label in the UK. In 2003, I diversified my workload and started working for a premier events company based in New York City. Their primary focus was delivering high profile celebrity events and booking talent. I headed the development of their nightlife division and by 2004 I secured our first Las Vegas contract with Pure Management Group (PMG). Several years later I accepted an in-house position with PMG and relocated to Las Vegas. This would be my departure from global events to a singular focus in nightlife entertainment. I later took an executive position at AMG which was acquired by Hakkasan Group, and worked there for almost a decade. Vegas became my new home and is the longest place I ever continuously lived.

Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?

I’m a student before anything else. I spent over 30 years of my life learning from others who are experts in their fields. From attending seminars to going on retreats, I’m constantly incorporating new strategies and thinking into my life. This is a lifetime pursuit and I don’t think my thirst for learning will ever be satiated.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I’ve worked in entertainment and in Las Vegas for over a decade and still very much adhere to “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” So, all those interesting stories will remain private for the people that participated in them, but none of them have been as educational or as interesting as my time spent with Jack Kornfield at Esalen in Big Sur. He is considerate man, even with his movements and is the living embodiment of Yoda. I would be shocked if someone couldn’t learn from him.

In that weeklong seminar at Esalen. I showed up every day and participated in each offering; intently listening to my fellow classmates and their vulnerable exchanges with our teachers. At first, I felt embarrassed for them, but that quickly transcended into admiration. I reveled in their emotional bravery and knelt at the foot of it. The more I surrendered the old parts of me, the more I felt connected to these strangers. I released my tenured role as the unemotional observer and jointly communed in their pain. There was no me versus them; no division between our entities. I embodied the universal truth that we all suffer. We’re not alone in this and that, in itself emits a kindness.

These braves souls paved the way and their stories invited me to share my own. That first night at Esalen, I spent formulating a question for Jack. It was well-prepared and well-rehearsed because I have a fear of public speaking. It is only with thorough and meticulous practice that I feel confident to speak in public. The next morning, I entered the classroom ready to deliver my question into Jack’s caring hands; I just had to wait for the right time. As the sharing portion of the day commenced, this woman stood up and released a tremendous vulnerability through her story, that I was taken aback. My inner critic then thought, How are you supposed to compete with that? Then it dawned on me that I was a fraud, when I realized I just developed a phlegmatic question. My inquiry was purposeless; it revealed nothing about me and there was nothing emotionally transparent about it. It wasn’t based on personal vulnerability.

Why are you asking him this? I ingested my question and let it breath before I carved a response, You just want Jack to like you and for them all to think you’re smart, but why? It was in that answer that I formally met the child inside of me. My childhood traumas reproduced itself throughout the totality of my life and for the most part, went completely undetected. Here I was just wanting to be accepted as I desperately needed as child but unlike the stoic man I grew into. I bore witness to that pain and desire unfiltered by the narrative I created to insulate myself from those disappointments. That feeling that I was never good enough or deserved that acceptance. So much of my dysfunction came in defense of that pain, especially the walls I built to protect my once delicate and caring heart. I had awoken to this new truth, excavated to the origin of it. We are all frozen in some point of our narrative, stuck at some point in our life and maladapting in order to insulate ourselves from pain. In that process we become less companionate, less flexible, less willing to compromise. It becomes me versus them or you’re with me or against me.

In that sole acknowledgement of my inner child, something new was born from that ground. I acquired what I now consider a theoretical understanding of mindful practice. It was not knowledge though; knowledge is like your lungs’ automatic response to air. You don’t have to think about it, it just becomes part of you. I awoke in that room quietly in front of all these people and Jack. Those lessons learned have become the foundational structure of my compassion work and turning point in my life. They have made me a better human and, in that process, made me a better leader.

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?

Never wear a good suit to a nightclub unless you plan on retiring it for life. Also, never wear a light-colored suit when working in or going to a nightclub. When I first took my in-house position at Pure Nightclub with PMG, I prided myself on my appearance. As a New Yorker, I thought I had to properly represent myself and looked down at my coworkers and their suit choices. Standard black or dark grey. I thought, I don’t work in a bank or I’m not a security guard, I work in entertainment. On my second night working at the club I decide to wear a Paul Smith khaki suit. Everything went swimmingly for the first couple of hours, until the club reached capacity. Walking through a busy nightclub is like being the metal ball bulldozing inside a pinball machine. As I bounced my way through the crowd while simultaneously dogging every cranberry-vodka, I realized why everyone else wore dark suits. I made it to the VIP section unscathed and at the perfect time to meet the falling sever assistant and his newly filled carafe of cranberry juice. I looked like a glazed donut when the near empty carafe finally hit the floor. My beautiful suit now had a massive stain that resembled a muted red glow, covering the front half of my body; matching the embarrassed face of the server assistant as I picked him off of the floor. There was no going home, I wore that suit and the shame for the rest of the night. I deserved the ridicule and the teasing for bad fashion assumptions. Lesson learned — it would be a dark banker’s suit from there on out.

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?

A thought leader is the foremost authority in a selected field of expertise. A typical leader is not at the cutting edge of their industry or perpetually pushing their boundaries. An influencer is directly tied into purchasing decisions, and their power doesn’t need to be based on intricate knowledge of a singular field.

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?

Any time spent investing in acquiring knowledge and expertise is time well spent. It will directly enhance your ability to succeed in whatever field you choose. It’s only with an open mind that one can become a thought leader and that openness will leave you available for new possibilities and new ways of improving all aspects of your life.

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?

Innovation and expertise monetizes through business growth. The more knowledge you acquire the more efficient you will be in all your business practices. That will allow time for you to think far beyond the road you are already on. Innovation and proper time management is at the core of all lucrative opportunities.

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.

I actually have 6 strategies of linear trajectory in order to become a thought leader:

  1. Hard work: It starts with removing your expectations, rolling up your sleeves, and getting to work. These are all at the heart of any strategy of acquiring knowledge and first becoming a leader.
  2. Dedication: It is rare that I put down my pencil and when I do it is only for reflective thought and a needed moment in order to recharge.
  3. Discipline: Work as I call it, is not only done on the page or the office — it starts the moment I wake until the time I sleep. I’m a disciplined human from the cold showers I take every morning to my daily mediation practice.
  4. Time Management: I set my intention every day to maximize our most precious commodity, time. Time is something we all can never get more of and we as humans forget the importance and the fragility of it.
  5. Credibility: The next one, which I feel is the most crucial to the longevity in anyone’s career, is credibility. You establish credibility by building a portfolio of successes and recovering from failures. Yes, we all fail, and it is not a matter of when, it is a matter of how we reframe and pick ourselves up from it. The lessons we learn from it and how use it to better ourselves and the people around us. Those lessons are at the heart of integrity and credibility. We all love an underdog story because, most of us have felt that way at the very least, once in our lives. I don’t think people will take you seriously until you meet that criteria of losing, recovering, and winning.
  6. Share Resources: I don’t mean to over simply these other 5 categories; it is rudimental for the purpose of the conversation and can be interchanged with other words. Once you have earned your stripes and become a leader, what marks the transition to a thought leader is then positioning yourself in the market and establishing yourself as the go-to resource to freely share the knowledge that you’ve acquired.

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.

Rachel Botsman, her thoughts on collaborative consumption cements her position as a thought leader. She is a captivating speaker, author, and a go-to resource with impeccable credibility — lessons to be learned are in her dedicated work ethic and innovation.

I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?

That can be said about most terms that clearly just become marketing ploys for some people. You don’t have to define someone as a thought leader. Their work and their effectiveness on sharing ideas speak for itself.

What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

Mediate and always keep open mind. We must continue to redefine what we perceive as success while taking the time to enjoy life.

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. 🙂

Compassion and collaboration. I think those are the two fundamentals that would make the world a better place.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Know what you don’t know.” — Ronald Ian Clark. This is my Father’s quote and those words are etched into my brain. I even have them tattooed on my arm in his handwriting, after he died of pancreatic cancer. He used to always say, a smart person knows what they don’t know. Then they will either find an expert who can teach them the desired subject matter or hire them into their business. My Father only used this in his business life and I have expounded his practice and use of it in the entirety of my life.

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. 🙂

Brene Brown, @BreneBrown on Instagram.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

My Instagram profile is for my private life, but I have an art profile — you can find me @papergrenade where I share another aspect of my public life through my own expression of art.

Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful.

I appreciate the opportunity to be able to share my thoughts with your audience.

“5 Things You Should Do to Become a Thought Leader in Your Industry”, With Kevin Clark, Executive… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.