What Is A Thought Leader?
Before we go into how to become a thought leader bit of the article, let us define what a thought leader is.
A thought leader can be explained as an individual or person of interest who has amassed a great level of expertise, achieved the highest success in a specific field and is now being sought after by people and interest groups who wish to gain from their wealth of knowledge or replicate some form of their achievements.
Thought leaders over the years have gained high traction and have managed to garner a large but close-knit and often rabid fan/follower base to whom they incite and inspire within a particular niche or industry.
Related Article: Top 30 Influencers and Thought Leaders to Follow in Order to Succeed
Thought leaders are most times invited to speak at special functions, conferences, and events for the sake of sharing their knowledge and insights with a peculiar audience.
They also get offered special positions from the government and corporate bodies, or residencies as guest professors in the academia.
What Makes A Thought Leader?
Before one can be referred to as a thought leader, there are a few key things to consider, as the title likewise isn’t one that is self-declared by any one person.
Before one could be a called a thought leader, he or she must possess the following attributes:
- Such a person must have over time, proved his or her worth through their wealth of experience in a particular field or niche.
- They equally should have the essential educational qualification to give credence to this knowledge and experience.
- In the age of the interconnectivity and social media, thought leaders are additionally referred to as “influencers” who have become experts and are very up-to-date in their niche.
- A thought leader should be always able and willing to offer new and dynamic insights to an ever-changing industry.
- The achievements and success of a proposed thought leader will generally speak for themselves.
The Value Of Being A Thought Leader In Your Industry
There is a quantum number of benefits that accrue from being a thought leader in an industry.
Here’s the description of a handful of them below:
- Authority: Thought leaders command much respect, status, and influence in their field, and this has afforded them the singular power to be able to persuade people and sway emotions towards a particular idea or interest.
- Visibility: Being a thought leader in your industry will most certainly increase your visibility to influential people in your industry who will share in your enthusiasm and work with you to achieving some of your goals.
- Exposure: As a thought leader, your many ideas get exposed a great deal, and this sends a ripple across boards which will, in turn, draw wide attention from the media who stumble over each other to get first-hand information from you about your idea further exposing you to more interest groups and industry big-wigs.
- Career Fulfillment: Being a though leader sets you up for greater heights in your career, leading to professional and overall career fulfillment over time.
16 Remarkable Tips On How To Become A Thought Leader – THE THOUGHT LEADER BLUEPRINT
1. Know Your Niche
This is where you start up the journey. One of the most common characteristics of many great thought leaders is that they master every inch of their niche.
Authentic thought leaders understand that they don’t have to know every bit of everything as subjects go, so they take large amounts of time to completely immerse themselves in as much knowledge as they can in their chosen fields. This is why their level of expertise is revered and sought after by many.
One way to become a thought leader in a chosen niche is by picking what you love and enjoy doing. This will give you an intuitive feel around your subjects, which will ultimately drive your passion and the passion of those you connect with.
2. Build A Brand Around This Niche.
After you have picked out your niche, the next thing will be to build a reliable brand around that niche.
Building a brand is a sure way to stand out of the pack. As a thought leader, your personal brand is what establishes your authority in any industry as this is where the real value chain lies.
Your followers will connect with you on a deeper level based off of your ideas and knowledge base. This brand will further strengthen your market credibility, making you a leading voice in your industry of specialty.
Related Article: What is Branding? 6 Undeniable Benefits of investing in Branding.
Authenticity should be the watchword for every wannabe thought leader.
Being great in what you do is only part of the whole thought leadership process.
People yearn to connect with great leaders based off of their ingenuity and uniqueness. This is where authenticity comes into play.
Share your knowledge and insights with a personal touch that is attributed and unique only to you. This is another reason building a brand is critical.
Do not pretend or ‘fake’ to be an expert when you are not. Being genuine and true to yourself and what you believe in is all you need to be a respected thought leader in your field.
Related Article: 6 Ways to Establish Authentic Thought Leadership
4. Gather Experience
You must learn as a thought leader that to become an established force to be reckoned with, and you need to have as much experience as possible in your niche.
The type of experience required can only be gained through years of practice and life experience in this field to be able to impact some real value on your followers.
For instance, if you are a thought leader in the area of teenage coaching, you would have encountered a large number of teenagers along your time in the field enough to have an authority in handling different issues that are common to teenage kids.
You could write articles, books, hold talks and lectures on virtually any topic from teenage angst, sex education, depression, drug abuse; following your wealth of experience gathered from dealing with teens over the years.
5. Connect With The Right People
In order to be a great thought leader, you must learn to align with the right people. This means building a solid network of connections with other established thought leaders in the industry, participating in networking groups, speaking at public events and conferences like TEDx.
You should also take a great deal of time to harness a strong network; this will not only increase your knowledge and position but further validate your credibility in the field.
6. Learn To Work With Influencers
In this age of social media, influencers are the new thought leaders of the internet.
Working with influencers to help propagate your idea is a much easier and faster way to sell your brand to a vast online audience.
Influencers have a rapid follower base and have a superficial charm to sway people’s emotions and choice on what to purchase.
So aligning with a trusted influencer eases your stress as they do take on most of the marketing responsibility for you as well as opening up to newer possibilities.
7. Own A Blog
As a thought leader, you will be flowing all day with thoughts and ideas that you will need to jot down at the instance you get an incline.
Owning a blog is not just for official reasons and for merely writing formal long-worded updated, but acts like a journal where you can write down the endless stream of thoughts.
A personal blog is more intimate, and you will be surprised just how those seemingly incoherent thoughts and ideas can be of great value to someone out there who was waiting for the right answer.
You should learn to write as much as possible. Don’t worry about language construct or vocabulary. Just pour out your heart as you feel led with useful information.
You can also request to guest-post on other people’s blogs in the same niche as you and gain more traction to your blog by back-linking.
8. Be Accessible
Aside from marketing yourself on every given platform, both on and offline, it is equally a great practice to make yourself accessible to your audience at any given time.
It has become much easier with the internet and social media to be accessible to your audience. People should not find it difficult to contact you via any medium for correspondences and advice. Also, do your best to respond as best as you can.
Gary Vaynerchuk is one online influencer who does this very well. He has high real-time engagement with his ton of followers.
9. Get On Social Media
Gone are the days where Social media was an option; these days, it is no longer an option but a necessity to business.
You get to connect and engage with a vast audience, influencers, and other thought leaders in your niche.
You should not necessarily be on every single social media platform out there, but can choose the ones where your target audience is more active like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram and strike meaningful, high-value engagement with a captive audience.
Try as much as possible to be very active, comment, and share other people’s post and engage with your friends and followers on these platforms.
10. Challenge The Status Quo
Always try to steer off conventional thought now and again. Learn to challenge the status quo by bringing some uncommon and fresh to the table.
This new school of thought can really stir a different type of conversation in the industry that will champion growth and new leaps.
When you inject new blood into a system, you not only set yourself apart from the crowd but people are more willing to listen and partner with you and share in your vision.
11. Listen to Other People
Cultivate an excellent listening habit.
Great thoughts leader don’t bear witness to knowing everything, so by listening, you learn more from other great minds in the industry to either add to, replace, or add on to what you already know.
Listening to and acknowledging other people’s opinion exudes humility, and humility goes a long way!
12. Keep Learning And Evolving
Learning they say, is a life long experience. So it will always be in your best interest to continue learning and evolving to catch up with continuous industry changes.
You must learn to stay abreast with current trends to be offered new and updated solutions to real-world problems at every given instance.
13. Value Your Brand And Time
Don’t try to be everywhere at every given opportunity.
You don’t have to honor every single invitation to speak any an event as not all events are suitable for your brand.
Making a habit of attending just any kind of event strips you of your brand and relevance and can taint you in a bad light.
Try instead to narrow your target only to high-flying events that are strictly concise to your niche and nail it from there.
14. Providing Solutions To The Big Issues
Being a thought leader isn’t just about providing solutions to general problems in the industry. It goes beyond that.
A great thought leader should be able to offer cutting edge solutions to the issues that people didn’t even know existed yet. That takes the conversation to a whole other level.
15. Have A Catchy Story As Your Theme
A great gimmick to successful thought leadership is having a great story to serve as a background theme for your brand. It could be a personal story or someone else’s you experienced.
Your story could be a rags-to-riches tale that can stir up emotions and resonate with your audience. People also tend to correspond better with a thought leader when they can relate to his or her story.
Referring Gary Vaynerchuk yet again: he uses his story many times of how he and his family emigrated from Russia to the US and how his gratitude of being given a new opportunity at a new life in a different country has led him to become successful. This story has become a very familiar one with his fans, which in turn forms a cascading theme around his brand.
16. Give Out Freebies
Last but not least, you should offer freebies to your followers.
This can range from free podcasts, free membership, radio shows where people can call in and contribute to get gifts, down to handing out small accessories and memorabilia like caps and t-shirts with your brand’s inscription.
Freebies acts as incentives to you keep your fan base loyal to your brand.
Thought leadership has become a highly-placed position of authority that affords an individual a revered status in any field of endeavor. More still, it is one that is fast taking the front burner in the modern way of doing business, and the individuals amongst us who are smart enough to seize the opportunity of thought leadership to leave a mark in their niche are the ones that will eventually matter at the end of the day.
By following the tips shared in this article, on how to become a thought leader, you will position yourself strategically to be ahead of your competition in your efforts to become an authority on your industry.
If you are reading this article and would like to understand better what a thought leader is, and how to establish thought leadership (whether you are an individual or a company), then check out our related articles.
Related Articles: What is Thought Leadership? 4 Key Things to Know.
REFERENCES & FURTHER READING
Please check below a few resources to help you better understand thought leadership, and how to become a thought leader.
John Rampton. How to Become a Thought Leader. https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnrampton/2016/08/19/how-to-become-a-thought-leader/#2d03504c3353. Accessed on 03/08/2019.
Matt Sweetwood. 10 Tips on how to become a Thought Leader. https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/300170 . Accessed on 03/08/2019.
John Hall. 7 Steps to Becoming a Thought Leader in Your Industry. https://www.inc.com/john-hall/7-steps-to-becoming-a-thought-leader-in-your-industry.html . Accessed on 03/08/2019.
Erica Breuer. How to be seen as a Thought Leader in just 15 minutes a week. https://www.themuse.com/advice/how-to-be-seen-as-a-thought-leader-in-just-15-minutes-a-week. Accessed on 03/08/2019.
Parna Sarkar-Basu. Five Strategies to become a Thought Leader. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescommunicationscouncil/2018/10/11/five-strategies-to-become-a-thought-leader/#73922c4e93f6. Accessed on 03/08/2019.
Emma Knightley. 15 Tips for getting started with Thought Leadership. https://digitalmarketinginstitute.com/blog/15-tips-for-getting-started-with-thought-leadership. Accessed on 03/08/2019.
Dario Supan. How to use Content Marketing to become a thought leader. https://mention.com/blog/become-a-thought-leader/. Accessed on 03/08/2019.