Becoming a thought leader will radically improve the trajectory of your career and business. The key is to develop your reputation as the obvious go-to person when people are seeking expertise in your area of leadership.
Becoming a thought leader will radically improve the trajectory of your career and business. By definition, thought leaders are the ones people seek out for their insight and approaches. They are cited by others to prove their points, and their expertise inspires ideas and sparks fresh potential in others in your organization. My current favorites are Malcom Gladwell, who wrote The Tipping Point and Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt, who wrote Freakonomics.
Being a thought leader makes you a person of interest, whether within your department at your company, within your industry, or on a global level. How big you think is up to you. The key is to develop your reputation as the obvious go-to person when people are seeking expertise in your area of leadership. Doing so will increase your visibility within your organization and potentially within your industry, and as a result, job offers and your job security will both increase. As you develop into a standout expert, ideal clients will flock to your company, having heard others refer to you as a leader in the industry.
To start, consider whether you are already a thought leader. Do you have unique approaches, insight and expertise, preferably gained through experience? Avoid striving for encyclopedic knowledge of your area. Instead, uncover a deep level of expertise that you already have, delve into your insight on improving processes that you are familiar with, or consider something that you already do very well.
To more simply identify your own area of leadership, ask yourself the following questions. What do your colleagues regularly come to you for? What do your competitors fear? Why do your customers buy from you? What do your fans treasure about you?
Of the answers you hear, which speaks most to your passion? The answer will be your area of thought leadership. The more you can impart your approach so to give others successful, the larger the contingent of people who talk about you will be.
Gaining recognition is the other part of thought leadership. There have been plenty of people who were smarter than Albert Einstein, but as a patent clerk, he had the gumption to submit an article that would change the way we understand the universe. Einstein did two other things that set him apart as a thought leader; namely he kept adding to his body of work and he certainly did not shy away from self promotion. Achieving recognition by standing out is a big part of any kind of leadership.
To build your visibility, seek out assignments that showcase your area of thought leadership. Write articles for the company newsletter. Participate in exchanges on the company intranet, offering your leadership in a compelling manner.
To gain recognition in your field or industry, join associations and seek leadership positions. Speak at local events and national conferences. Write a booklet and send it to customers and colleagues with your compliments. There are many more possibilities than can be listed here.
Prepare to provoke strong positive and negative responses, and be ready to back your statements up with examples. If you don’t take a stance you’ll fade into the background instead of standing out as remarkable. If you leave your ego out of things you can represent yourself positively and build respect without damaging important relationships. It’s called thought leadership for a reason.