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Leadership Edge: How Dorie Clark became a Best Selling Author and Harvard Business Review Contributo

I had the pleasure of interviewing Dorie Clark. Dorie Clark is the best-selling author of Entrepreneurial You, Reinventing You, and Stand Out (Named the #1 Leadership Book of the Year by Inc, Magazine), and a Harvard Business Review contributor. Her work has been published in HBR Guide to Getting the Right Job and HBR Guide to Networking.

Dorie is a professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and visiting professor for IE Business School in Madrid, Spain. She is quoted frequently in NPR, the BBC, and MSNBC, and was named one of Inc. magazine’s “100 Great Leadership Speakers for Your Next Conference.”

What mindsets are most important to you?

I’m very focused. I choose no more than 2 professional goals to focus on at a time, period, and then review and update them every six months.

I’m also very positive about my ability to accomplish things. I feel very confident that if I make a suitable effort, it will get done. (Of course, I’m not talking about joining the NBA, but within my realm of competencies, I have evidence that if I work hard, I can get things done, like writing a book.)

I also triage a lot. That’s because I try to focus rather single-mindedly on top priorities, like my book launch earlier this year.

What are the top 3 actions or habits that you attribute your successes to?

  • I read the newspaper (NYT) every morning. I think this helps me stay well informed and aware of a broad range of trends and issues.

  • I honestly have a hard time not working when there is still work to be done, so I guess it’s a sense of guilt or obligation around professional matters. It does mean I’m not slacking off, though!

  • As a journalist, I learned to write quickly and therefore have written a lot of content, which has helped me spread my brand. For a period of about 3 years, I was blogging 10–15 times per month, which was a very helpful habit. I moved on from it not because I slacked off, but because I made a different tactical decision about other things to focus on.

What are the key life philosophies that you attribute your successes to?

When I was 13, I encountered the work of Tony Robbins, which was the first time I’d ever heard the idea that you can choose your own mindset and worldview — and if you can do that, why wouldn’t you choose one that was empowering? I thought that was quite powerful and likely has been impactful for me.

If you could distill your success to specific action steps, what would those be?

  1. Look at people you admire and ask yourself why, specifically, you admire them. Which accomplishments resonate with you? Read their biographies or interview them to understand exactly how they achieved this.

  2. Develop an action plan that mirrors this and breaks it down into manageable steps. (For instance, if you want to write a book, you can make a plan to write 500 words a day, which will get you a completed book in 3–6 months).

  3. Develop an accountability mechanism that works for you (for instance, recruiting an accountability partner, or putting money on the line to ensure you live up to your commitments).

  4. Execute.

What are the best resources you would recommend to someone looking to gain insight into cultivating a personal brand, or becoming a better version of herself?

As I describe in my Recognized Expertcourse, there are three key components of building a strong personal brand:

  • Content creation. In order to be recognized for your ideas, you need to share them, whether through writing, podcasting, videos, etc.

  • Social proof. Aligning yourself with known and respected brands can have a ‘halo effect’ that encourages others to take you seriously.

  • You need a trusted group to help you vet and improve your ideas, and to spread them as ambassadors.


Takeaway#1: To cultivate a personal brand, you must produce content quickly and often.

Takeaway #2: Focus on one or two goals at a time, and focus single-mindedly on those top priorities.

Takeaway #3: Network and social proof. Align yourself with known and respected brands, and have a trusted group to help vet and improve ideas.

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