How to Become a Thought Leader

Brand—both personal and company—are difficult to form but positioning yourself and your organization as thought leaders in your particular industry can go a long way to creating the brand that you want.

With a strong brand and recognized position as a leader in the industry, you and your company can welcome a breadth of opportunities, including relationships with others who are influential in their own arenas, and a consistent audience of potential clients who will not only know but understand the influence that you wield.

What is a thought leader, exactly?

Essentially, a thought leader is someone whose expertise in a specific niche makes them an authority on the subject, able to influence others in understanding it, embracing change and sometimes disrupting ‘standard’ thinking on the subject.

Examples of thought leaders of yesterday and today include people like:

  • John F. Kennedy — he challenged a generation in 1960  when he stated that America would make it to the moon within the decade. His leadership influenced the entire country to shift focus and achieve the goal.
  • Steve Jobs — as much as he created hardware, he created a vision for how the world would work, and how we would all work together. His influence in that arena will be felt for a long time to come.
  • Seth Godin — considered by many to be the ‘father of modern day marketing’, Seth has authored multiple books and can speak intelligently and passionately on marketing in a way that influences people to grow their thinking.

“Keep making a ruckus, it matters.” — Seth Godin

How do I become a thought leader?

Define your expertise and love it

Waking up one morning and deciding you are going to be a thought leader is not the way it goes. Instead, think hard on your experience, knowledge, and passion. Being a thought leader is hard work: you have to love the topic you’re communicating about, feel passionate about sharing on it, or you’ll find it difficult to muster the necessary enthusiasm to get the job done!

Create content that reflects this expertise

A thought leader shares their knowledge in ways that are compelling to the audience they are trying to reach. Ted Talks are a great example of how this works. But whether you prefer the written word, video, live events or however you choose to share your knowledge, it must always and consistently reflect your particular area of expertise.

The key—whatever medium you use—is to give your audience something new that they can take away, even if it is only a different perspective on a long-discussed topic. Stirring the pot and disrupting current thinking is an essential part of being a thought leader. Being ahead of the curve is what will make your thoughts influence others.

Be authentic

In order to influence others, you have to be authentic, have gravitas, and reflect the authority that you claim to have on the topic you say you love. This comes down to experience. If you don’t really have the knowledge that you claim to, your thought leadership will be hollow and inauthentic; it won’t resonate with your audience. This isn’t about self-promotion: it’s about sharing knowledge.

Do you want to share your knowledge and forward-thinking in your area of expertise with others, passionately, authentically and consistently? You have the makings of a thought leader. A solid team can help you get there, so consider what you want to say and how you want to get it ‘out there’. It will be worth it for your brand, and your company’s position.

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