Following Competitors Online? Why Entrepreneurs Should Unfollow Their Rivals to Stay Ahead

As if the pandemic hasn’t been tough enough for business, some CEOs are watching their competitors steal a march on them, even during this challenging time.

If you have been feeling the pressure of competition, and it seems like everyone else is doing well while you’re falling behind, keep reading. Mindy Gibbins-Klein is making some extra bold statements in this article because business leaders have extra challenges at the moment.

Your Thought Leadership is Required

If you are reading this, you are a leader in a position of influence. I’d like you to picture one of your stakeholders. Perhaps you are thinking of a key client, team member, colleague or business partner. How do you think that person sees you? I know, from speaking with over one thousand leaders, that most people look to them for clarity, direction and guidance. Most people don’t have the initiative that you have, or the ability to cut through the noise with powerful and original ideas.

The problem is that you don’t always remember how much people respect your opinion and seek answers to their challenges. Especially now. Real thought leaders show others the way, holding themselves to a higher standard than most. Am I describing you at your best? I hope so. Now we just need you to stop doing something stupid that everyone else is doing, then you can deliver your best thought leadership to your loyal stakeholders.

Ignore your competitors

Competitors. They are a fact of life, but how do you deal with them? Do you research everything they’re doing so you can keep up-to-date on their latest activities, products and services? Most business leaders have been told they need to do research, to know exactly what their competitors are doing so that they can differentiate themselves, their company and offerings. But what would happen if you completely ignored your competitors?

Don’t waste precious time

This sounds like a radical strategy, but I suggest you do not spend a lot of time worrying about competitors or obsessing about what they are doing. You need to know who your competitors are, but you don’t need to follow them so closely. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, it’s a waste of time. We never seem to have enough time to do all the important things in business and life, right? So why would we want to waste precious time reading and focusing on and worrying about other companies in our space?

That time could be better spent preparing, creating, thinking or doing just about anything besides reading about competitors! And if you are worried you won’t know the latest industry news, one of your direct reports can always brief you.

You’re a leader, so please remember that others are counting on you to lead the way, not follow others.

Competition does not need to create ‘competension’

It’s an interesting phenomenon that when you develop a level of competence, you attract more competitors. Competition in and of itself is a reality. It would be nice if you operated in such a micro-niche that no other company could touch you. However, there are almost certainly others watching what you’re doing, copying you and trying to beat you at your own game.

If you spend time thinking about the competition, it can create unnecessary tension. So, I coined the term ‘competension’. The first step is to become aware of it. Check in with yourself and your team to see if this kind of tension is driving your decisions and actions. Sounds simple, but it is an insidious habit which I suggest you look to break as soon as possible.

Stress kills flow

When you read about your competitors if you’re like most people, you get stressed and stress can kill your flow. Flow is exactly what you need at this point in time. The emotions of fear, anger, regret and disappointment when you read about what everyone else seems to be doing block this.

Why would you want to do this to yourself? In my book The Thoughtful Leader, I talk about protecting yourself from people who drag you down. A client of mine kept reading about what someone else in her industry was doing. She saw this other leader boasting about her achievements and it made my client feel almost worthless – like she had nothing to add to the conversation. In fact, she became so upset, it became impossible to do any quality thinking.

The truth, of course, is that my client had a unique offering and point of view. Once she unplugged from the obsession with her competitor, she created a new six-figure service. You also have a unique angle, story and insight, but it may have got buried underneath all the noise and illusion that it’s all been said and done before. It is still there, that unique message of yours, and it is more important than ever before that you share it with the people who need to hear it.

Get away!

What you need as a business leader is some quiet, relaxed time to do your best thinking and planning. You need to go offline, and you need to stop following competitors! I call this the power of the UN. I don’t mean the United Nations, but rather the strategy of unfollowing, unsubscribing, unfriending and even unplugging if necessary.

You’re a leader, so please remember that others are counting on you to lead the way, not follow others. Think about your last creative or bold decision. You know, the one that created energy, excitement and profit for the organisation. Real leaders are capable of coming up with a big idea, and they know how to get others on board to make it happen.

If your thinking feels stale and you don’t feel inspired, that’s all the more reason to get away from your normal routine. Get out into nature, go for a walk with your phone off. Go to places you don’t normally visit and speak to people you don’t often speak to. Challenge yourself to unplug so you can plug into your intuition and your inner creativity.

Create Your Bubble

I often have to remind friends and clients about the power of the UN. If I hear them complaining about something they read on social media, I tell them to simply unfollow and unsubscribe. Why continue to look at content that winds you up or annoys you? Why continue to associate with people who don’t support you and share your values? It’s a free country and you are free to create your own bubble anytime.

The term bubble is not being used in the context of the pandemic. I’m talking about business, and in particular, surrounding yourself – probably virtually at the moment – with other clever and positive business leaders. If you have created space in your diary and your contacts list, you will have more room for the right people. Every time I’ve upgraded my close network, it has led to more success for all of us.

Once you have experienced the bubble, you will realise that you are actually more creative and have more positive thoughts and ideas than when you were letting in all those outside influences. Let me know how it goes – if I’m in your bubble, of course!


Mindy Gibbins-Klein is a global thought leadership expert and founder of Panoma PressREAL Thought Leaders and The Book Midwife®. Her latest book The Thoughtful Leader is available from Amazon and all good bookstores. Find out more at

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