Many leaders like to think of themselves as a thought leader. It has become a common term that suggests fame and popularity. While these are nice things to strive for, they are not what thought leadership is all about. Thought leaders don’t earn their recognition overnight. It is a recognition that comes with years of experience, in-depth expertise of a specific topic, innovative thinking, and a desire to share their wealth of knowledge with others. This is not a calling that everyone can achieve.
Thought leaders know how to connect with a broad audience, they freely share their experiences so that others can learn from them, and they know how to engage their learners and inspire them to improve themselves or their industry. It takes continued passion and effort to become a thought leader. If you have the passion, here are some ways to direct your effort and work towards becoming a thought leader.
“A thought leader is someone with proven expertise and experience who isn’t afraid to share it with the world without direct compensation.” Jay Baer
Thought Leader Strategies
To be an authentic thought leader in your industry, you need to become a trustworthy, engaging resource for others in your field. And sharing your experiences through high-quality content allows you to effectively reach, educate, and engage with your audience. The following strategies outline the ways that you can start to become an expert in your industry and begin sharing that expertise with others. These strategies take time and effort but can help you position yourself as the go-to person in your field.
Get Knowledge and Experience
There is no easy way to gain knowledge and experience. There are no shortcuts here. You must put in the time and effort, years and years of both, to become an expert in your field. You don’t need to know everything to be an effective thought leader. But you do need to know what you know inside and outside.
Develop a Niche
Great thought leaders understand their niche. They know where their expertise is most helpful and what their audience values, and they connect those two. What is the one aspect of your industry that you are most passionate about? How can you help make the lives of others better through this topic? That is the sweet spot where you want to develop your niche.
In order to become a thought leader, you are going to have to write, speak, produce video, get interviewed and come up with original ideas about the topic you want to specialize in. You are going to have to do this for years, and you are going to have to repeat the same ideas over and over again. Don’t just share ideas but find solutions to existing problems. People respect authority figures whose knowledge and expertise can be leveraged into something meaningful.
Write regular articles for your company media outlets, start your own blog, be a guest writer for others’ blogs, and write for industry and trade journals. Take the same approach for radio, podcast, and vodcasts. Share helpful facts and respond to questions about your niche on LinkedIn, Quora, and Reddit. Consider writing a book. Speak at conferences. Do a TedTalk. There are countless ways to create content that establish you as an expert. Take advantage of as many as you can.
Educate Your Audience
Whatever modes of content creation you chose, make sure you focus on educating your audience. To get people interested you have to offer them something. You need to teach them something useful that will help them to improve some aspect of their life.
Demonstrate Credibility and Consistency
You need to show others why you are an expert. Develop your story to highlight your successes and achievements. Let people know that you can be trusted by sharing your track record. Plus, you need to be consistent in expressing your core beliefs. People need to be able to associate you with something specific, if you are not consistent in your voice and core message, you won’t be memorable.
Grow Your Network
You must learn to love networking. This is both online and in person. You must put yourself out into the world. You must actively seek out people to meet and take advantage of opportunities to get in front of others and share your story. People need to feel connected to you, so you must take a personal approach in reaching out and getting to know others. You must create a sense of community within your network. That is what will encourage others to want to connect with you.
Pitch Yourself to the Media
You don’t have to wait for the media to come to you. You can always alert the media to your area of expertise and provide them with potential story ideas. Make sure that you explain why you are the best person to address these story ideas and why these stories would be of interest to their audience.
“A thought leader is true to themselves even when others might laugh, disagree or nay-say. They actually walk their talk. Be an original, share your enthusiasm, educate yourself on your industry, make enough room for others, be open to criticism and don’t get short-sighted.” Jessica Northey
Thought Leader Characteristics
Most thought leaders share some notable personality characteristics. You should consider if these are characteristic that you possess or that you strive to possess.
Thought leaders are always on the lookout for the next great idea in their industry. They seek to grow and support others, empowering them to come up with those new ideas. When you genuinely love your field and are passionate about it, it is easy to be authentic. You are more concerned with helping others grow than you are with maintaining your own prestige.
Thought leaders admit when they don’t know something. They aren’t afraid to show that they aren’t perfect and that they are open to learning from others.
Thought leaders never stop asking questions, never stop challenging the status quo, and never stop learning. The passion to continually learn everything about their industry is ingrained into everything they do.
Thought leaders want to share their knowledge and expertise with others. They are generous in their desire to nurture others and are natural mentors and coaches.
Putting It All Together
Being hailed as a thought leader is not for everyone. Not everyone wants to be the big fish in the big pond. Some want to be a big fish in a small pond and some just want to be an invisible fish that no one notices. You must know what kind of fish you are and determine if thought leadership is the right path for you.
Though leaders provide value to others by sharing their expertise and experiences. They don’t just sell a product or service; they are people who strive to be the very best in their field AND they want to help others reach the top with them. It takes a special kind of person to be an authentic thought leader. While you can create the right environment and do all the leg work, though leaders don’t put that title on themselves. It is a title which others anoint to the experts they most admire and respect.