A thought leader is an informed leader that develops original ideas to become the go-to people in their field of expertise.
Thought leaders take the lead to truly change the face of a vertical in business. When you are a thought leader, instead of just doing what you are good at, you share your experience with others. You answer questions like:
- What is happening in your industry?
- What are the trends?
- What are the problems people face?
- How do people solve those problems?
- What are your predictions?
You don’t have to be someone famous to become a thought leader either. In fact, a 2020 thought leadership report says 70% of people believe that you don’t need to have a large social following to be a thought leader.
Thought leadership is all about owning your voice, owning your power, owning your expertise and getting your ideas heard. In doing so, you establish yourself as a credible source of information and the go-to person in your niche.
When you are a thought leader, you inspire others with your innovative ideas and you show them you have the capability to turn your ideas into reality. For me, it was creating a model called The Human Way, which helps humanize operations as a way to build trust in our digital world. Whatever your industry or field, you are capable of doing the exact same thing yourself.
How do you become a thought leader?
A thought leader can take many forms. You can be someone who is already successful running your own business and want to make more of a difference by becoming a thought leader. You can be an employee who doesn’t want to leave their company but wants to establish themselves as an authority in their field of experience. Or you can be a thought leader as a career [they don’t teach you that in college!]. But it is a misnomer that you have to be an entrepreneur to be a thought leader. The choice is yours! The question becomes, how do you take action to do it?
Here are 4 ways to help you become a thought leader in your niche:
- Know what you believe in and be comfortable in expressing it.
If you have a website or a blog, set the tone by posting this statement: “I believe (passion/purpose/mission).” If you don’t have a website, make a pinned tweet or put it in your LinkedIn and Instagram bios. Knowing what you believe in is the first step to becoming a thought leader. You differentiate yourself by having your own original thoughts — thus, you “lead” in thought. Be firm and let people know what you stand for, and be comfortable in putting your voice out there.
- Be consistent in creating content.
Putting out a few memorable posts every now and then, no matter how good they are, isn’t enough to create rapport with your people. If you want to be a thought leader, you have to be committed to publishing content regularly so people will remember you and be part of building your brand. You can do this via posting blogs or a podcast on a weekly basis paired with high-quality content. As long as the content supports what you stand for and is consistent, you’re off to a great start.
- Establish a strong presence across different platforms.
In addition to a blog or podcast, if you have one or both, take advantage of LinkedIn, Instagram, Youtube, Facebook and Twitter to engage people online. You don’t have to create unique content on each platform. Remember that you can always repurpose your content. Here are some ideas:
- Turn your podcast into a blog.
- Post quotes from your podcast on your social media feed.
- Post short video clips of your podcast on LinkedIn, Instagram and Youtube.
One piece of advice: do not feel like you have to be active on all platforms. I learned this when I went through my rebranding in January 2021. I decided to go all in on Instagram and LinkedIn because that’s where I was having the most quality interactions with my people and gaining traction quickly.
- Grab opportunities to speak publicly.
According to Forbes, public speaking remains one of the most effective content distribution strategies for thought leadership. And you DON’T need to get paid for it. The ability to articulate your material and connect with your audience was and continues to be powerful.
Moreover, speaking at events and conferences is one of the best ways to gain exposure and strengthen your position as an expert in your niche. Giving public speeches adds to your street credibility, plus you can record it and post it on your website and social media accounts. You can also repurpose your speech by turning it into a blog or an infographic.
Don’t get overwhelmed with the possibilities.
Start small and with incremental baby steps, you will grow your platform over time. Becoming a thought leader takes commitment, hard work and innovation. But if you believe in your purpose, you’ll enjoy the journey… and it can be one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do.
I’ve been up to something under the radar, as you may have noticed, developing a program to help women in business become thought leaders without quitting their day job. We’ve only got a few seats left in this 6-week accelerator starting in January. If you want to learn more or have a female leader in your organization that should apply, reply here and we’ll get the conversation started.
In love and respect,