Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

How to Be a Leader in an Age of Information Overload

The privilege of leadership used to belong to a select few. The social elite. The especially charismatic. The unbelievably successful. You used to have to be the head of your own organization. Or carry a prestigious title. Influence was earned slowly over time. And few had access to it. But now, that’s all changed.

Information Overload

Photo credit: Jorge Franganillo (Creative Commons)

In the age of ideas when the exchange of information is as easy as a click of the button, anyone can be a leader. In the traditional sense, leadership is dead, and influence has replaced it.

So what do you — someone who wants to lead — do?

Become a thought leader

There’s a war out there, old friend. A world war. And it’s not about who’s got the most bullets. It’s about who controls the information. What we see and hear, how we work, what we think… it’s all about the information!
—Cosmo, Sneakers

Start a blog. Launch a podcast. Begin recording videos of yourself and posting them on YouTube. Share your ideas with the world, and see which ones spread. This is what you need to do to see your influence grow.

In the age of the iPod, when we have instant access to gigabytes of teaching for free, the person with the best data (not the most) wins.

We don’t need more information. We need better information. We need compelling reasons to believe in a cause worth following. And those sharing them will be the leaders of tomorrow.

So where do you begin?

How about with collecting information? With becoming a learner (again)? As they say, “leaders are readers.” But leaders are also conversationalists and event attendees.

They take people out to coffee and make friends at a party. Introvert or extrovert, they put themselves out there. And if you want to lead, you will have to do the same.

Be honest. You don’t need more information. You need better discernment. I recently heard Alli Worthington share the following:

I hate it when people say they don’t know how to do something… Have you heard of Google?!

We all know this. Still, we struggle with knowing what information to believe or follow. So many choices, so little results. We just get paralyzed.

We need a process to curate. To figure out what works for us and what doesn’t. This is why I love organizations who demonstrate excellence of thought leadership not only through their example, but also through organized efforts to bring ideas and leaders together.

If you’ve never been to the Chick-fil-a Leadercast, it’s an event worth checking out. In the past, they’ve featured speakers like Seth Godin, Pat Lencioni, and Robin Roberts.

If you’re in Nashville, I hope you can join me for it (there are other locations, as well). My friends at local radio station WAY-FM were kind enough to give an exclusive discount (just for my readers). For more about that, check out this link (use the promo “goinswriter”).

Free Kindle?!

That’s right. You heard me. Free. Kindle. Since getting mine, I’ve been reading and learning a lot more.

As a way of helping you build your knowledge base and become the thought leader you’re destined to be, I’m giving away a Kindle to a lucky commenter today. Here’s how you can enter:

  1. Share this article. You can do that via Facebook or Twitter (click the links or use the sharebar.)
  2. Leave a comment. Answer the question below and include your email.
  3. Wait. I’ll notify the winner in a week. If you don’t hear from me, you didn’t win.
  4. Respond. If you don’t reply within 48 hours, I’ll pick a runner-up.
Update: The contest is now closed.

What’s one leader you’d love to meet in person (living or dead)? Share in the comments.

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  • Lucinda Tomlinson

    I would definitely like to meet John Green, one half of the team leading ‘Nerdfighteria’ along with his brother, Hank Green. What started out as a YouTube challenge to see if the brothers could communicate for an entire year using only vlogging turned into an entire community who enjoy the videos and join in helping the causes the brothers are part of, such as This Star Won’t Go Out and Kiva. As well as all this John is also a New York Times bestselling author, whose latest book, the fantastic ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ (which he personally signed 150,00o copies of!) has been optioned for a movie, so he would undoubtedly be fantastic to meet and gain invaluable advice from, and not just writing advice as you can see!

  • Tara_imani

    Hi Jeff,

    Wow, great question! Good that you’ve only asked for one– though it’s so hard to narrow it down to one.

    I recently had the honor to meet an anchorwoman from Al Jazeera and we talked for a good while. I asked her what was the busiest time when she was a field journalist; she said, covering the campaign of Bill Clinton. And then her eyes lit up as she recalled the time she met him in person. She expressed how in awe she was of his stature, his charisma. He exuded such inner power that she was impressed by merely shaking his hand.

    My mom had a similar experience back in the 1960s when she and my father- both staunch Republicans with dad being in the aeronautical industry- decided to attend a campaign speech by then presidential candidate John F. Kennedy. She said his eyes were the bluest, most piercingly intelligent eyes she’d ever seen as he brushed nearby them – so close she could feel his power, confidence, and charisma. Of course, they voted for him! 🙂

    This is a really intriguing question. Hmm…to narrow it down to just one. Part of me wants to say I’d like to meet Iran’s president Ahmadinejad– so I could perhaps understand him and then persuade him to stop his “annihilation talk” against Israel.

    But, no.

    All options considered, I’d love to meet Julia Morgan, California’s first licensed woman architect who was also the first woman to be accepted into the coveted- and up until her acceptance- all male French school of architecture, the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris which is what most architecture curriculums are still based on today.

    Julia Morgan overcame great odds- a childhood illness that left her with a speech impediment, being a female in a male dominated field, working overseas abd paying her way through school- rejecting the generous offer of support from Phoebe Hearst- passing a rigorous 4-yr program in 3 year’s time after being falsely rejected even though her test scores were passing. She did all this while caring for her psychologically dependent brother who lived with her in Paris.

    I would ask Ms. Morgan 3 things: 1) What piqued her interest in architecture, 2) How did it feel to be the only woman in the studio full of guys back in the late 1890s and how did she cope, and 3) After designing over 700 projects (exceeding the output of her contemporary, Frank Lloyd Wright), what was her most satisfying accomplishment and why.

    Well, that’s it! Thanks for the thought-provoking question! You’ve just helped me start my next post for my blog- a trilogy on the life and work of Julia Morgan.

    And, I can’t wait to try the new Kindle! :).

    Best wishes,

  • April

    Silvia Boorstein. When I first began reading/following her I thought she was helping me cope with life in a more positive way. Now I realize, she helped me to live a different life! It is a daily journey, but living with a focus on compassion and love versus materialism and distraction.

  • Ronydn

    Mahatma Gandhi. Would like to know from him why the parition. Why was Pakistan created?

  • Seaofgeek

    I’d want to sit down with George W. Bush to pick his brain over continued leadership during endless criticism. seaofgeek@gmail.com

  • Say what you want about the company, but Sam Walton tapped-in to how to build a global brand by remaining true to his roots. That seems to be something lacking among today’s leaders.


  • Jenndinzeo

    I’d like to meet the apostle Peter because I identify with him. jenndinzeo@gmail.com

  • Inkblabber

    Eleanor Roosevelt.  Most people forget about her next to her husband, but the lady did some pretty amazing things for the time she lived in.


  • I would love to spend some time with Nelson Mandela. His forgiveness of his oppressors is inspiring.

  • ria

    If I had to pick someone who has already passed on, I would go with Mother Teresa. I can’t even imagine being that sweet, patient and kind and yet being able to get your point across. May God bless her soul. 
    Oh and if it was to be someone living, it would have to be you. You’ve got me hooked on to your blog and a lot of blogs have failed to do that. Keep on being awesome and staying relevant!

    My email address is mapleria@gmail.com

  • I want to meet Paul Simon; he’s been so good for so long.  And it seems like he’s always been true to his own artistic center.    

    And a comment on thought leaders:
    I got to take a class with Mihaly 
    Csikszentmihalyi  at Claremont Graduate University.  His big work in life is on ‘creativity’ from a psychological perspective.  His major books are “Creativity” and “Flow”.

    One of the components of his work on creativity is the concept of  ‘gatekeepers’; people who have a say over trends in art.  These people (professors, art critics, record labels, etc) approve what ‘good art’ is for a community.  This ‘good art’ is then used to educate the next round of artists, who then come up with new ideas.  These ideas are re-submitted to the ‘gatekeepers’, either approved or disapproved, and around it goes.  Being a successful creative person in the past has meant getting approval from these folks.

    My question to him (which I didn’t really get an answer to) was: hasn’t the internet changed the traditional role of ‘gatekeepers’?  

    In the past, thought leaders had credibility because of their organization, or financial backing, or connections.  Now, that has all become less relevant.

    I think this post defines the current ‘gatekeepers’ – people who have influence.

    • Tara_imani

      Excellent post. The last part about the speaker and what you’ve learned from him could be a blog on its own. Love the concept of the ‘gatekeepers’ of influence.

  • Why, Jeff Goins, of course!

    Otherwise, I’d pick George Washington. He went from unbridled ambition to a man of humility who walked away from the opportunity to become “king” of our newly-formed nation. By doing so, he allowed a representative republic to form and became its first president.

    I visited Mount Vernon several years ago and stood on the back porch looking out at the same Potomac he would have gazed at over 200 years earlier. Gave me goose bumps.

  • Andrei Tomici

    Larry Ellison definitely 🙂

  • Ravi Zacharias.  Possibly the most moving speaker I have ever heard. Email: steele.benjamin@gmail.com

  • CourtneySperlazza

    Ralph Nader. At a young age, he accomplished quite a bit by being what amounts to the weirdo in the bunch. Whether I agree with his stances or not is irrelevant. Anyone who can go against the grain with such conviction earns mucho respect from me. 

  • Jim Rohn is the one. Plain talk, no nonsense, straight shooter, and practical.

    Enrique Fiallo

  • Korina Tongson

    Seth Godin.

  • Greg Mathias

    I’d like to spend some time with Vaclav Havel from contemporary times; and Moses for less contemporary times.


  • I’d like to meet Michael Hyatt. I love the insights he has and would love to hear more… my email is amoralescmc at yahoo dot com.

  •  T. Austin-Sparks – A man of immense spiritual vision and revelation of  the centrality and supremacy of Christ in God’s eternal purpose. He has meant much to me over the years. His online library is here: https://www.austin-sparks.net/


  • Tammyhelfrich

    I met Ronald Reagan, but would love to have been able to talk to him more.

  • Everlypleasant

    I’d love to meet Elisabeth Elliot…leader in so many fields, simply by living the life God sets before her. 

  • Jeff, I would have love to have let Rich Mullins. You talk about a guy who built a tribe before I even knew what a tribe was. In this age, he would be writing a blog and we would be hanging on every word he wrote.


  • elaine o’connell

    Oscar Wilde – I think he had much to teach about the highs & lows of the journey of the creative writer…..

    “It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it”

    “Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul”

    “Most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are ones’ mistakes”

    “It is through art, and through art only, that we realise our perfection”

    “I put all my genius into life, I only put my talent into my works”

    “I always pass on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it. It is never of any use to oneself”  🙂


  • Lots of people…  Sarah Mae, Beth Moore…

  • Alleena Holcomb

    Meeting Abraham Lincoln would be such a thrill! I would ask him about his journey which started in a log cabin to becoming the President of the United States. He was born at the right time in history, and he was destined to be the leader that had the important task of holding the states together during the worst time in American history. He was self-taught in so many ways. His speech of the Gettysburg address is profoundly written, and yet it is so simple. I would ask him how he was able to maintain diplomacy within his cabinet and how he was able to make such tough decisions regarding the Civil War.
    lena_holcomb@yahoo:disqus .com

  • Buddha Kat

     I would be honored to meet Mahatma Ghandi.


  • Old Testament leader named Joshua. He took over after Moses (big shoes to fill). He sat second-chair for nearly 40 years in the desert and needed ridiculous amounts of courage to take steps in leading the people. I resonate with his experience and the words of encouragement God spoke to him. 

  • I’d love to go fishing with Hemingway.

  • Nancy

    FDR. Hands down.

  • Susan48

    Winston Churchill. Love his face.

  • Pauline Clark

    Hmmmm…..leader? I’m not sure what actually constitutes “leader”? Being Canadian, I might say the late Pierre Elliot Trudeau. Of course, I love Oprah but think Maya Angelou is a very wise woman and think artist Frida Kahlo was an interesting person. Not sure that I could pick one but I’m going to definitely ponder this some more. 

  • I’ll start here on earth.

    Should I travel in the West again, I do hope I get meet you over coffee, Jeff and exchange ideas.
    Your writing is an inspiration and soul food to all walks of professional and ordinary life.

    My email is gmeniermendoza@gmail:disqus .com 
    Regardless if I get the Kindle or not. I’m forever a follower. :)Cheers. 

  • Hillary Clinton. Smart and savvy. She should be sitting in the Oval Office at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave,

  • Molly Nelson

    Napoleon Hill.  I want to talk him about his invisible counselors among many other things.

  • I would love to meet Colonel Joshua Chamberlain. Having read about him in Andy Andrew’s books I’m fascinated by his story.

  • I would love to meet Jules Verne. He was the definition of a thought leader – the father of science fiction!

  • Aung Sang Suu Kyi–“The Lady” of Myanmar (Burma) who just won a parliamentary seat in the government.

    Suu Kyi is a tremendously amazing woman. I recently had the honor of hearing her speak to a large group of business people (via Skype!) and  was blown away by everything she said. When asked about how she felt being under house arrest for two decades, she shared that it was not bad at all–in fact, it was a good time to step back and reflect on everything that was happening in her life and in her country. She was to read all the books she’s ever wanted to read.  “House arrest wasn’t all that bad–I learned so many things, probably even more than if I were out in the streets.” She expounded more on this but ended with “..it’s all about attitude.”

    I’ve always  seen her in the news, but it was such a privilege to be in that audience. Gentle and articulate, she is one of the most charismatic people I’ve ever heard speak.

    vicki2201 at mac dot com

  •  “who just won a seat in the Myanmar government” (just clarifying)

  • Jesus 🙂

  • Kirsetin Morello

    At Blissdom, I got to hear both you and Michael Hyatt speak–two of the best sessions there! (Thank you.)  So I think it would be fun to change things up a bit and meet Oprah Winfrey.

    • Hah! Being compared to Oprah — I’ll take it.

  • I’m preparing for an onslaught of haters, but I’d like to meet Hitler.  NOT because I agree with his ideologies or his methods, because I certainly don’t.  I’m not a history buff at all but the holocaust is the only time period which I am interested and have read many accounts of the subject: factual, fictional, about Hitler, about survivors.  You cannot disagree that he was an influential leader of the highest persuasiveness.  I want to know what it was about this man that made millions of people follow him, made people kill for him, made people die for him, made his followers think of certain human beings as lower than dogs.  Obviously timing had a lot to do with it: he was the “right” person at the opportune time. 

    I’d want to learn and share that information so such atrocities could never, EVER be committed again.  It would be wonderful to harness that information to do something positive in the world.  And if a survivor of a death camp such as Elie Wiesel could join us at the table, so much the  better.


    • Whoa. Bold.

      •  I hope that didn’t sound creepy.  Maybe that counts as an ugly part of my story.

  • I thought about this a lot and decided I’d really love to meet Warren Buffett.  I’d love to pick his brain about both business and philanthropy.  People often think they are mutually exclusive, so I’d love to get his take on social entrepreneurship.

    …and it would make a killer blog post.  😛  My email is elan@dogreat.net 

  • Jessica K. Sullivan

    I would like to meet Sue Bryce. I would like to soak up her knowledge and insight into marketing, and client relations. jksullivan@gmx.com

  • I don’t have twitter or facebook, but I did post a link to your site on my recent blog post: https://bigb94.info/2012/04/04/wanna-win-a-free-kindle/

    One leader…hmmm…I would love to talk with Phil Wickham. I have already met him, but getting to actually talk and hangout would be awesome!

    By the way, my email is bigb94@afo.net

    Thanks for the content you put out on this site!

  • Only one leader?  Wow, I have recently read a few books by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, so I would say him.  But I would also love to meet George Washington, any of the apostles, of course Jesus, Moses, Abraham and the list goes on. I would love to win (but who wouldn’t)! tnc.avey@gmail.com

  • ashleigh dean

    I’d like to meet Seth Godin. I would talk to him about leadership, but also social media. I would ask him why he doesn’t follow anyone on twitter and why he doesn’t engage with his fans. I would ask him about where his love for marketing started, and what has encouraged him to continue learning over the years. 

    If I had a Kindle, I’d probably download and read almost all of Seth’s books, among other leadership and business books. If I win, drop me an email here: deanas@jbu.edu

  • I would be bold and ask to meet President Obama.  I have read and heard Stephen Mansfield talk about his deepened walk with Christ and I would love to know more.

  • I have experience the great joy of becoming a leader in creativity of language usage, in causes I passionately care about, and in daily writing practices through blogging, Facebook and Twitter.  All of these practices have helped me to provide some leadership in person, as well!  I would LOVE to meet the author of “Fifty Shades of Grey”!

  • Tera Q

    Is it too late? I’d love to meet Hillary Clinton. She has been through so much and I am sure has a ton to share.

  • I would love to meet Jesus Christ. A leader with such humility, with no reason to be humble. I intend to meet him someday!

    abigailjmorrison at gmail

  • Frankie

    Hey I’ve recently discovered you and your blog via some form of search from the internet. And at this moment, your the leader I would like to meet someday!

  • SO GLAD I found your Blog! It’s SO inspirational, thorough, educational and most of all, I FINALLY will figure out, ‘How to Blog’.

  • trisha heddlesten

    i’d love to talk for hours with c.s. lewis

  • Her name is Adriel Faith Bishop Hill. 

    Don’t ask me how I remembered her middle, maiden & married name from only 2 weeks together at Ballet Magnificat. 10 years ago. 

    Adriel wrote me a letter. I was 14 years old. I’d just experienced the most defining experience of my life thus far. I learned I had a gift. I was overwhelmed with the experience and about to enter a dark season of my life. 

    I was instructed “Not to Open It” until I was on the plane. The words she wrote cast a vision for my life I am only now beginning to see. 

    Adriel never joined Ballet Magnificat. She suffered an injury, got married to Jeremiah and moved to a western state. I think of her often.

    Maybe she didn’t dance professionally. Maybe she was just a camp counselor for a group of rowdy girls one summer at a ballet camp. 

    Or maybe she changed the world of one lost little girl. My world. 

    For that I am forever grateful.

  • Jay

    I would have to say Jesus. Of course I’m able to meet with him on a regular basis too 🙂

  • I’ve always wanted to meet John Maxwell. I’ve been reading his leaderships books for over 6 years. His wisdom and insight has helped me over the years in my position as manager and leader.

    email: leadingeveryday@gmail.com

  • Terrence Young

    Bravo. Creating something meaningful allows for the light of truth to shine through all the noise.

  • Neil Armstrong.  The last living explorer to an unknown world.  He led with courage, patriotism, focus, and commitment.  

  • Roy Condrey @CajunPygmy

    Robert E. Lee, I would like to talk about leadership in the face of overwhelming odds and the ability to make choices that will affect 1000’s in a real, permanent and unchanging way (on the battlefield) and the thought process of turning your back on a country for your personal belief’s.