It might seem hard to become a thought leader – but this is not some mystical position that only a select few can attain.
It’s far from being an exclusive club. Like anything, there’s a process you can follow. With the proper amount of focus and dedication, any experienced professional can become a thought leader.
Sharing your pearls of wisdom is crucial. It helps businesses make smarter decisions, inspires the next generation, and expands people’s intellectual horizons.
So what are the top 5 ways to become a thought leader?
1. Figure out Your Area of Expertise
This shouldn’t be too broad. There’s no point marketing yourself as ‘Joe Bloggs, Business Expert.’ Business has thousands of subcategories, and each is highly specialised.
You should therefore evaluate your own professional strengths and decide on a precise category – a more specific angle would be ‘Joe Bloggs, Retail SEO Marketing Consultant’. It’s always possible to expand this later once you acquire more of a reputation.
It’s also worth remembering that you might not always be the best judge of your own abilities. Consult your colleagues carefully and make sure their assessments correspond to your own perceptions. Remember: the position of thought leader is bestowed by others, so you need to make sure you’re not barking up the wrong tree!
2. Go the extra mile to enhance your reputation
Why not spend an hour every day going through online forums like Quora and Reddit, posting responses to people’s questions? This helps you build up your confidence through regular practice, and if people respond well, it should encourage you to continue on your thought leadership journey.
It’s also worth starting a blog. It could be just once a week, but if the content is relevant and addresses something that others want to know, you will be able to attract a following. You should also connect with other bloggers and try to get featured on their blog.
3. Be original and interesting; become a thought leader who makes a difference
There’s little point recycling the same received wisdom of whichever industry you work in. If you’re serious about thought leadership, you need to find a unique take on an issue.
This means going beyond the typical buzzwords of our time (‘disruptive’ and ‘agile’, I’m looking at you!)
Good thought leaders are the ones who explain what these concepts truly mean, or introduce new ideas into the public arena.
You should also consider developing your own personal story. People are more likely to listen to your business advice if it has a genuine human connection; they will believe that your expertise comes from the progress of your professional and personal life, and as a result, it will have more emotional resonance.
4. Consider judging at business awards
Once you’ve established your expertise in a particular field, judging is a great way to enhance your reputation as a thought leader. Attending an awards ceremony is a fantastic networking opportunity – you will have industry experts and influencers all under one roof.
At certain events, like UK Customer Experience Awards and UK Digital Experience Awards (both of which are accepting new judges at the moment), judging brings additional benefits: you get extensive social media publicity and the chance to take your personal brand exposure to the next level.
These events also have the judging and awards on the same day, meaning you won’t just be an anonymous contributor or member of ‘the Academy’ – you’ll be highly visible and closely involved with the entire occasion.
5. Find your voice
So far, we’ve focused on the ideas you need to develop as a thought leader; we’ve seen that they should be original and human. It’s equally important, however, to consider your style of delivery.
Not everything has to be delivered like a TED talk – in fact, the appetite for that style of presentation might be fading due to overexposure.
Consider what plays to your strengths – if you’re a great storyteller, construct your content around that. If you’re gifted with analogies, use them as much as possible to enhance your descriptions.
Overall, becoming a thought leader means combining your ideas and your own way of expressing them into an irresistible package of expertise.