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5 Things Every Successful Thought Leader Does That You Should Be Doing Too


‘Thought leader’, seems to be a bit of buzz term lately. But, what makes someone a thought leader exactly? Forbes defines it as: an individual or firm that prospects, clients, referral sources, intermediaries and even competitors recognise as one of the foremost authorities in selected areas of specialisation, resulting in its being the go-to individual or organisation for said expertise.

It might feel like anyone and everyone who writes a blog can claim to be a ‘thought leader’ these days. There are many intelligent and talented professionals across industries out there, so what helps some people stand out more than their peers? Here are the 5 things that all successful visible experts are doing that will also help you achieve ‘thought leader’ status in your industry:

1. Thought leaders SPEAK

Ever watched a keynote presentation or a TED talk and wondered how the speaker landed the gig? It’s OK to aim high, but you’ll have to start small.

Start with local events such as business association meetings, networking groups or seminars to get comfortable with speaking to a crowd, answering audience questions and presenting your material in a digestible and entertaining way.

You don’t have to let geography or restrictions of travel limit your speaking engagements. Webinars and podcasts allow you to present your expertise to an audience anywhere in the world without having to leave the comfort of your home office.

Find what you’re passionate about and focus on that. Take a stand, be polarising if you have to, have a strong opinion. Remember - perhaps what you are passionate about isn’t necessarily core to your business. Take Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer at Facebook, as an example. She is vocal about supporting women in leadership, through the Lean In campaign, and Ban Bossy initiatives. “Leadership is the expectation that you can use your voice for good. That you can make the world a better place”, Sheryl says.

2. Thought Leaders WRITE

And they write a lot, but they make it meaningful. Blogs, opinion pieces, ebooks, white papers, interview questions, industry articles, social media posts. Thought leaders will have their own publishing platforms, such as their own website or blog, as well as regularly contribute to industry publications and produce content for guest articles and blogs to boost credibility and reach.

Thought leaders will develop their own personal voice and brand that their readers can identify. They fearlessly allow their personality and character to shine through. Their content is interesting, engaging and answers their audience’s questions in a way that adds value through original and innovative thoughts and ideas.

The best way to fast-track your expert status is to write a book for an instant visibility boost. But if that sounds a little too daunting right now, start a little smaller with a highly focused blog. Identify the questions your customers are asking and prioritise them, starting with blog articles that answer these questions.

Don’t create content with the sole purpose of promoting your product or service. Sell only your ideas. If your ideas are meaningful then people will come to you and engage your services or buy your product.

3. Thought Leaders RESEARCH

Regurgitating others’ ideas will only get you so far. You need to come up with something original, innovative - or controversial. Thought leaders create content that rises above the rest, and entertains in the process. They add something meaningful to the dialogue, rather than just repurposing material.

Thought leaders are not afraid of giving away their knowledge! Be willing to share what you or your company is doing differently to others. People are looking for best practice ideas that will help them to also achieve success.

4. Thought Leaders NETWORK

Thought leaders work hard to grow their networks, both on and offline. They understand and appreciate the importance of strong personal relationships with their customers and also their industry peers.

Be prolific on social media. Have well-maintained, professional profiles to ensure a strong presence across multiple platforms, depending on which ones are most suitable for you and your target audience. The key is consistency and commitment to communicating with your followers.

Thought leaders also ensure they have a strong presence in the real world. Commit time to attending industry events and conferences, contribute to boards, judging panels, sponsorship opportunities and have your elevator pitch nailed and a business card at hand ready for every potential network opportunity.

5. Thought Leaders PROMOTE

Thought leaders are not afraid to put themselves out there! They are quick to share their blogs or ebooks through their social media networks, and ask others to do the same.

Some strategic self-promotion gives the impression that you’re confident and comfortable with your skills and knowledge. Don’t be afraid to approach other publications for interviews or to offer an opinion on news or industry updates. Your website or online bios should be shamelessly full of media mentions and links to posts and articles to back up your credibility.

By consistently building on these five fundamentals, over time you can establish yourself as the go-to authority in your field. Do you have any other ideas about building a reputation as a ‘visible expert’