A thought leader is someone who has mastered the art of using their expertise to scale their income and impact.
When we hear "thought leader," we often think of celebrities like Oprah, Simon Sinek, Malcolm Gladwell, and Jim Collins. The truth is that most thought leaders today are not massive celebrities. They are lesser-known leaders who are respected for serving a community, changing lives, and solving specific problems. And they're getting paid handsomely for it.
The business of thought leadership is becoming more popular all the time. Thought leaders are a trusted source of information. They have a significant influence on solving problems and developing new ideas for others in their field. That's the reward of becoming a thought leader in your industry.
Good News About Thought Leaders
The good news for the rest of us is that becoming a thought leader in your industry was never easier. This article discusses the strategies that can be used effectively to help you succeed and grow your thought leadership!
If you can manage it, being a thought leader is an excellent way to live your life. Consider it to be the adult equivalent to the high school or the cheerleading squad's captain. Everyone wants to be your friend, every word they hang on you, and your opinions become the law of the land virtually.
It's easy to claim you're a thought leader on your LinkedIn profile. It's a much more significant challenge to become one altogether.
Becoming a respected leader in your industry requires an intense focus and commitment. You must be relentless with your efforts while simultaneously being strategic in laying out your plan. It will not be easy, but the feeling of accomplishment at finally achieving this goal is well worth it.
This article will focus on how to become a thought leader. You can use this article as a checklist to organize what needs to establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry.
So You Want to Become a Thought Leader...
There are many benefits to being recognized as an industry thought leader: you'll be seen as someone who makes a difference and can help advance your career.
Building yourself up as a respected leader requires a great focus and commitment, a relentless effort to learn more about the industry you're in. An intelligent strategy can help lead your success right into becoming one of the leading experts on whatever subject area it is that interests you most. It won't be easy but being recognized for all of your hard work has some serious rewards!
If you like the idea of changing the way people think about your industry, then you already have the right mindset.
Here are a few reasons to start walking down that path to excellence in thought leadership:
Advance Your Career
If you want to climb the corporate ladder, your voice must be heard. If you never speak up or share an idea with anyone at work, then most likely, no one will remember who has what skills and knowledge when they need someone for a task. You also won't get promoted quickly because people higher on the chain of command don't know enough about their employees' strengths to make decisions based on those facts alone.
Dorie Clark, the author of Reinventing You, explains, "Good employees and good executives are nice to have. Thought leaders are irreplaceable—and indispensable."
Grow Your Company Brand. Thought leaders are associated with their companies. Some of the most notable are Jeff Bezos with Amazon, Elon Musk with Tesla, and Gary Vaynerchuk with Vayner Media. The rise of a thought leader is often tied to the reputation and brand of their company. As they become more recognizable, so does their company brand image grow.
Get New Opportunities.
The more you put your name and ideas out into the world, the more opportunities will come your way. The best thing about putting yourself out there is that it's bound to generate interest from others who may not have known about us before. You'll inevitably see a spike in likes or followers on social media sites as well!
Make A Difference At Scale.
Because you can cause real change in your industry, people will follow you. Even though thought leaders take most global conversations, they still work hard to steer and direct public opinion.
This article will help you get started as an industry thought leader.
Determine Your Why
Your Why is another way to talk about your purpose in life. It's about knowing WHY you are here on this Earth. That's a philosophical question, I know. But philosophy is what gives us the foundation upon which we stand. WHY do you want to become a thought leader? Why are you doing this?
Without a purpose, you will wander around aimlessly because you will not have a center. And without that, you'll be lost, and no one will know how to find you again.
You could also define this as a mission. A clear mission provides focus and meaning. Your Why is everything – why are you doing this? If your answer comes back as anything other than “to make people's lives easier" then I would encourage you to rethink what you're about. A noble why should become the driving force behind everything you do. If not, you'll never know how you're doing, you'll be spread out too thin, you'll give up too easily, and wander from group to group wondering why your work just isn't connecting.
Once you have clarity on your Why, I recommend starting with Who.
Define Your Who
One of the best ways to establish yourself as an industry thought leader is by identifying your audience and determining which approach best suits their needs. Suppose you care about being a leading voice in your niche. In that case, you likely already have some level of reputation with certain people. You have clients or customers you love working with, who love working with you in an area you feel like a confident expert.
Imagine if you could work with more of your favorite clients. Think about those people. Those can be your Whos for now.
Become A Valuable Person To Your Whos
Before you can lead others to greatness in your industry, first make sure that the person leading is YOU. It's time to take action and start climbing the ladder one rung at a time.
John Maxwell is famous for saying, "The best way to add value is to become valuable." You'll need to be clear on the problem you solve. The issues in the world today are complex. We are looking for experts who can help us. What problem do you solve?
It's best to do some research about this problem. What are other leaders saying about this problem? How are they answering the big questions being asked in your industry these days?
Show Up And Add Value
Thought leaders have so many options for channels where they can add value: It could be adding value through:
- a personal blog
- a social media presence
- an email list
- regularly writing a newsletter
- a course you offer
- a podcast
- writing a book
If you're feeling overwhelmed about all your options, why not commit the time or energy to just one. Why don't you start with the regular post on one social media channel?
The road to becoming a respected and established thought leader starts by working at it every single day—building yourself up as someone who has something valuable or important to share with others takes time, focus, effort (and smart strategizing). It won't be easy; however, the reward of establishing yourself as an industry-leading expert.
Design Your Brand
Thought leaders stand out from their peers and competitors.
They can have strong and compelling personalities that appeal to their respective audiences. But they don't always have to. The good thing about having a personal brand is that it is personal - it's just you. But you do have to define who you are and how you want to be known.
Your brand is an extension of who you are. You must be honest and authentic. You can fake it for a while, but you won't be able to fake it after a period.
- Your industry has grown in influence and complexity over the years. What challenges do you see happening or are coming on the horizon?
- Are the dominant voices in the field solving the problems that exist.
- Are the current leaders equipping people for the demands of the job today?
- Is there a blind spot that only you can see and feel burdened to address?
- Can you take some prevailing ideas even further in your niche and stand out even more?
Grow Your Network
Did you know that your network is connected to your net worth?
As you set out to build your voice in the industry, it's essential that you consider all of the resources and opportunities available. The people who have paved their way before we are often able to offer invaluable insight into what has been done successfully as well as help connect with other key players so we can get our message heard too!
Create connections with influencers and other leaders in your space by asking for their opinion on the future of this particular field. Do not ask too many questions that would reveal what they do not want to be said publicly, but you will be surprised at how genuine people are when someone genuinely connects with them!
If you feel like you have a dismal network, here's a tactic that will work: share, like, and comment on social media conversations around you. Engage with other leader's videos and other content being put out by respected people in your industry.
Furthermore, attend conferences and events that bring thought leaders together. The loyal followers you find will help raise awareness of your work among the influencers in your field.
Don't be afraid to reach out and engage with those already established as an industry thought leader. Think of ways you can help them succeed, and you will be a breath of fresh air from the usual cases of people who want to take or criticize them.
Build Your Platform
As an aspiring thought leader, you need to put in a lot of work. You can't just do one blog or a random picture now and then. Make sure that you have a content plan. Then, share what you know by making good content and post it consistently.
Thought leaders must be willing to wake up each day and serve. That's what the "leadership" component of thought leadership is all about. The best leaders are givers. Yes, they receive something in return. But giving always comes first. When you hang around the best leaders, you get the impression they would give even if they didn't get anything in return.
A lot goes into growing an online presence that doesn't involve just posting on Facebook all day long.
Being known as a thought leader in your industry can take time to establish, but the tactics below will help you hone in on what it means.
- Create a blog for your field of expertise and write consistently. This assures you'll always have fresh content to share, as well as the opportunity to establish yourself as an expert in your area on Google.
- Share articles relevant but not too promotional on social media channels such as LinkedIn or Medium if those outlets fit into what you're trying to accomplish professionally.
- If you want to grow your audience, be on the lookout to find new outlets. Figure out which blogs, podcasts, magazines, and YouTube channels your Whos love - then start pitching guest posts or interviews.
- Leverage the power of social media. Add your two cents, feedback, support, critique (not trolling), or encouragement as part of your daily routine. It's essential to have visibility so that people become comfortable seeing your name and valuing your input.
It may not seem like it's worth all of those hours on social media platforms if no one ever responds but don't lose heart! You're building something with purpose and meaning which will provide you with the life and legacy you've wanted.
Leverage The Power Of Public Speaking
Not all thought leaders are great public speakers, but any public speaker can quickly become a thought leader. I know it's not fair. Some people aren't great at speaking in front of a crowd. This doesn't disqualify them from being a thought leader, but it certainly doesn't help.
Public speakers have influence. That's the currency that thought leaders trade with.
You can do amazing things as a public speaker. The market loves a dynamic presenter. Speaking is a powerful way to connect with new audiences and showcase your expertise. You can gain credibility in the field by presenting at events, join panels, or be invited as an expert keynote speaker!
You don't have to be Tony Robbins or sell-out arenas to use this skill. You can speak at local events, industry-specific conferences, and any workshops where you know that your Whos gather.
When you speak, not only do you put yourself in front of new audiences, but it forces you to polish your special focus. It can lend you authority within the field. It also allows networking with other professionals on equal footing who speak at an event or panel discussion.
Author Dorie Clark states the opportunity so well, "Given the terror that public speaking instills in most people, your street cred will automatically skyrocket when you take the stage."
Public speaking is still a powerful way to grow your influence as a thought leader.
Get Published And Immortalize Your Ideas
Once you have people following your ideas, they need to get published. There are options today to accomplish this. You can publish your ideas in a book or perhaps an online course. This is the perfect moment to employ all of your thought leadership and unique perspective to launch something truly remarkable that you'll have for life.
Clarify your intellectual property and release it to the world in a formalized way.
That's why you should consider book writing as a new revenue stream that will leverage your growing reputation and give your brand authority when needed!
We know how Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In has made her one of the most influential people in empowering women in the workplace.
A book is a great way to create an additional revenue stream by leveraging your growing reputation. It also gives you something that can be sold after speaking engagements or other events for which people are interested in purchasing tickets. Still, the most significant benefit of having a premium product like this is its ability to lend authority and credibility to those who buy it. They make this decision because they believe what's inside will have value within their industry.
Again, Dorie Clark puts it best: "There is no more definitive proof of thought leadership than authoring a good book on your chosen subject."
Keep Growing, Keep Scaling
But when all those pieces come together, you will know what true success feels like. It's time to take your industry by the horns.
Don't wait for others to lead - you're in charge!
When you work hard and use your talents well, and come across a message that resonates with your audience, then things will begin to go your way.
- You will receive requests for podcast interviews and media appearances.
- Conference organizers will require you to give a presentation.
- Your social media audience will increase as if it were its natural occurrence.
Once things are going that well, it's easy to relax and bask in the adoration, but as a thought leader, you never stop. Remember that the point of becoming a thought leader was not about fame. Thought leadership is the way you're going to achieve your Why. You have a mission to accomplish. You have lives to change and a legacy to leave this world with.
Since others are listening to you by this point, you need to be as up-to-date as possible, or you'll fall by the wayside. You should avoid using the same ideas on your blog over and over again.
Keep pushing your industry forward by seeking out new ideas and approaches.
It May Take Longer Than You'd Lile, But The Results Will Be Worth It
It's not going to happen overnight. If you want to learn how to become a thought leader in your industry, every day takes some work. You've heard it said that the dictionary is the only place where "success" comes before "work."
The road is long and lonely for months or years as you build the personal brand that defines who you are and craft that unique platform with access to an audience ready to hear what you have to say.
It may not seem like it's worth all of those hours on social media platforms if no one ever responds but don't lose heart! You're building something with purpose and meaning which will carry over into other areas of life outside this job hunt, so keep going!
No one is going to hand you the fame and fortune that comes with being a thought leader in your industry, but it can be yours if you want it badly enough. You'll need an unwavering commitment and lots of hard work. But when all those pieces come together, you will know what true success feels like.
Become a thought leader with these intentional steps: Determine your Why, your Who, your brand, your platform, your voice, your speaking skills, and publish, publish, publish.
Now is the time to speak up. Be a part of real change. It's your time to become the trusted authority that people look to for answers.
Start the process to become a thought leader today. You won't regret the journey to the top.