Thought leadership is a buzzword that is often tossed around, and while you have probably heard it before, there are several different characteristics a thought leader should have.
What we probably agree on is that thought leadership is a type of content marketing where leaders tap into their knowledge of and passion for an industry in order to pass on their expertise and position themselves as an expert in the field. As a thought leader, your ability to stand out and make an impact depends on your ability to demonstrate deep knowledge a particular industry and how to use it to solve problems. Here are a few characteristics you’ll need to become a great thought leader:
Characteristics of great thought leaders
Trustworthy: They say that it takes years to establish a reputation, and just moments to ruin it. It is important that a thought leader’s content is well-informed, fact-checked, and cited, and that even predictions are based on data or reliable personal experiences.
Forward-Thinking: A true thought leader isn’t “up-to-date” in their industry – they are ahead of the curve, recognizing new trends or better yet, driving them.
Dedicated: Thought leadership isn’t established overnight. Just as you dedicated years to becoming the best in your industry, you must be prepared to put in the time to build your following.
Humble: Sure, being a leader in your field earns you some bragging rights. But if you want to leave a lasting legacy, it’s better to leave a good one. More importantly, remember that you do not brand yourself a thought leader – that’s up to your peers to decide.
It is important to remember that you are there to help and lead others, not solely to promote your own brand.
What does it take to become a thought leader? Here are a few steps to get you started:
Start small: Just like we’ve mentioned before, becoming a thought leader takes time and dedication. Part of the journey to becoming a thought leader is realizing that you have to take baby steps. Start establishing credibility by engaging with other experts in your field, and making sure your website and social media bios are updated to clearly convey the subject you are an expert in. Become more vocal by sharing articles that are relevant and that you’re passionate about, or write for sites such as LinkedIn Pulse.
Bylined Articles: Ready to step up your game? Get yourself published. Bylined articles are not only beneficial for you to get your voice heard, they are also valuable to the publication by providing their readers with a perspective directly from someone experienced in the industry. A bylined article can help you stand out from other competitors and showcase your thoughts on issues that are important to you or your company. Because you want to focus on topics that will set you apart, it is also crucial to find the right kind of publication for your story. Instead of focusing on just nabbing a subject line in Forbes or The Wall Street Journal, try to think about what publications will be most effective in reaching your target audience. Save the effort of pitching to a big name publication until you have more influence and credibility.
Speaking Opportunities: Speaking opportunities are not only a great way to get yourself heard, they are also a great way for you to engage with your audience and peers. Knowing your audience and listening to them is a crucial step in becoming a more well-rounded professional, and will help you tailor your content to fit your audience’s needs. However, be wary of coming across as too self-promotional. While your end goal might be to become a thought leader, it is important to reach that goal organically.
Getting Involved: If there is one true way to make a difference and gain a more holistic view of the field, it’s getting involved. Sit on boards of relevant causes or organizations in your industry. Join committees or professional organizations. Become a catalyst and show how you were a valuable asset to making thing happen within your field. By getting involved, you will not only be informed of what is relevant, you’ll be able to make predictions about what is to come.
Thought leaders are a new breed of professionals. By establishing themselves as forward-thinking and credible, they are changing the way we view different industries. By working hard and staying humble, they are driving results and building empires. The best part? The next one could be yours.