The term “thought leader” has become a big buzzword in recent years. So many people seem to want to add this description after their name. Now there’s nothing wrong with that. But if you REALLY want to be a thought leader, it’s vital that you are truly acting like one.
I see many consultants call themselves thought leaders. But they rarely produce content that remotely resembles thought leadership. That’s not to say they are not thought leaders. In fact, they may have a wealth of incredible information and insight into their chosen field. But if they don’t share that insight, then can they really be considered thought leaders? You can only be a thought leader if you bother to actually share your thoughts!
So let’s say you know you’re a thought leader. But you have no idea how to convey the ideas and information that are constantly buzzing around your brain. What should you do?
This boils down to content marketing. Share your ideas via a medium that you’re comfortable with. That can include but is not limited to:
- blog posts
- keynote speeches
- online videos
- and so on.
The rookie mistake that people make is that they want to download the wealth of information in their brain – often this is the accumulation of years of experience. But when you do that, it’s a daunting task to then try to categorise that information or group it in a way that’s going to be consumable for people.
Instead of doing a giant download, let your brain overflow in bite-sized chunks. Stop the waterfall and drip-feed your expertise to your audience.
What kind of bite-sized chunks work? Thought leaders should consider the following:
1. Well-informed and well-researched opinion
If there are changes in your industry – perhaps there is new government legislation or an amalgamation of major players – don’t be afraid to voice your opinion. But, if you want that opinion to be respected, make sure that you’re well-informed and you’ve done your research.
Blogging and social media has made it all too easy for people to spout knee-jerk opinions online – often before they’ve had a chance to find out all the facts.
Instead, make sure your opinions are well considered and you’ll develop a reputation as a respected commentator in your industry. Once this happens, you’re also another step closer to becoming the “go to” person that the media calls when they want a comment.
If you want to be a thought leader, then you need to have the guts to observe and call out trends and also predict the future. I’m not suggesting that you need a crystal ball, but you DO need enough experience and insight so that you can see where the market is heading.
People look to thought leaders who can identify The Next Big Thing. Okay, okay, I realise that’s a big call. Maybe not The Next Big Thing then. But certainly to identify where your industry is headed and how this is likely to have an impact on the main players, customers and stakeholders.
Let’s say you’re in real estate. Then it’s about calling out the next 5 suburbs that are going to become hot. If you’re a florist, it’s about determining 5 floral trends in weddings. If you’re an architect, it’s about outlining the key trends in building design based on the new green construction laws passed by the government.
3. Vision or manifesto
Beyond having a strong opinion or predicting trends, a thought leader is also not afraid to have a vision for the future. Typically, thought leaders care about their whole industry. As leaders in the space, they don’t just produce content that they hope will get them more business or leads. They have a vision for where their industry, customers and suppliers are going.
Be brave enough to articulate your vision. For example, if you want to see massive changes to regulations in your field, document your vision – and the reasons behind it. You can’t expect people to get behind you if you don’t present them with a compelling vision to follow.
Don’t be a whiner – and just write scathing blog posts where all you do is complain about the status quo. That’s being a victim, not a thought leader. Be the kind of leader who takes action and wants to make a change that will benefit everyone else as well.
Ultimately, if you want to position yourself as a thought leader, there is an element of vulnerability involved. You are putting your opinions and ideas “out there” for all to see, appreciate – and potentially even criticise.
But have enough faith in yourself and your ideas. Realise that they are not just worthwhile, they really MATTER. Sharing your ideas is vital – and the only way you can truly become a thought leader.