Thought Leaders are sought out, listened to, respected and needed. Organizations depend on them and believe they cannot function without them. While it may be good to simply perform well in your job or business, in this highly competitive world, being good is not good enough. And that’s why you want to establish yourself as a legitimate thought leader.
So what is a Thought Leader and how do you position yourself as one?
To begin, you simply can’t declare your arrival. Legitimate expertise is still required. Yet, at the same time, you have to develop a recognized reputation as an expert. Being the industry’s best-kept secret will not get you entrance to the club. Recognition brings with it tremendous benefits including job promotions and security; increased business; attention from the media, colleagues and industry groups; along with fame and often fortune.
To position yourself as the industry guru, follow these eight strategies:
- Find your voice:
- Keep the company of other Thought Leaders:
- Develop a body of work: Your ideas, opinions and insights position you as a thought leader, but it also requires developing multiple ways to communicate it—and it must be an ongoing process. Thought Leaders, by definition, continuously think about things, analyze them, challenge accepted ideas, debate issues, and develop new concepts. Thought leaders look at the world differently, and through their work, persuade others.
- Write: Article writing and getting them published in professional and industry specific publications can be the foundation from which to build your reputation as an expert. It can be both the feeder system for your Thought Leader brand and the incubator for your intellectual capital.
- Give speeches and presentations: Professional groups flock to hear experts speak. Whether before your local Chamber of Commerce, a chapter of a professional association, or at a national conference, speaking provides you a perfect platform to showcase your expertise. And by videotaping it and posting it to your website and YouTube, you gain world wide exposure.
- Maintain an online presence: Develop a compelling online presence using blogs and social media. More people turn to social media to get their news and obtain new knowledge. YouTube has become the number two search engine behind Google. Regularly post your thoughts on your blog; guest blog for others; and comment on other blogs. Join and comment on industry specific LinkedIn groups and make sure you have a website.
- Cultivate a relationship with the media: TV, radio and print are the fastest mediums to demonstrate your knowledge. The media craves good content. Press releases are a good way to get out front, but remember, no one is interested in a commercial. Commenting on relevant, current issues is key. Once introduced to a reporter, develop a professional relationship. Be available when they need you. Feed good information to them. Remember, Thought Leaders share their knowledge, never holding back.
- Write a book: A professionally published book is the gold standard of Thought Leadership. Opinions of you vastly change when you become an author. Doors open. The media calls you. Associations want you to speak before their group. And individuals want to see the book, read it, and learn all about it. With a book, you quickly rise to the top.
It is not enough to simply have expertise. It has to be known and that requires taking positions, being contrarian and even controversial; and remaining in the public’s eye. Thought leaders have to be “out there. ” and they must express their ideas with passion and conviction. Remember, if you don’t believe, no one else will. Writing Op Eds or commentaries are ideal ways to convey your expertise. Finally, you must be always developing new ideas and concepts; having different perspectives; and creating new intellectual capital. Thought leaders cannot simply be perceived as recycling more of the same. Within your company, position yourself as the go-to person in your area of expertise. Share your ideas, volunteer for projects, mentor colleagues and “up and comers,” assist customers, and contribute to your company’s newsletter and blog. Your position as an internal Thought leader elevates both you and your company in the eyes of your boss, customers, competitors, vendors and the industry as a whole. Establish both and internal and external presence.
Surround yourself with other smart people—people who have varied ideas and perspectives; people who will challenge your thinking; and people who will elevate you to a higher level. Identify these Thought Leaders, study their work, and reach out to them. Create with them a community of thinkers. Thought leaders freely share their thoughts from which new bodies of work emerge.
Your body of work puts you in a position to leverage your expertise to increased exposure, business and professional repute. Leverage is a circular process. Articles lead to speaking engagements, which leads to media exposure, which leads to business opportunities, which spurs news ideas for more writing and speaking. It is a dynamic and continuous process. And all this positions you as the expert. The more you do, the higher your recognition level and professional stature. No longer are you a secret. You are now the go-to person—a true industry guru, a Thought Leader.
Article written by Rick Dacri
Published in Mainebiz