Thought leadership is a term that is used widely, but varies in definition, which often makes it difficult to navigate a clear path to thought leader status. It can be challenging to pinpoint what a thought leader truly is and how one goes about achieving that title or career status.
According to Forbes Magazine, a thought leader is an individual or firm that prospects, clients, referral sources, intermediaries and even competitors recognize as one of the foremost authorities in selected areas of specialization, resulting in its being the go-to individual or organization for said expertise.
Why is thought leadership important?
In short, thought leadership leads to mutual success. It allows you to provide measurable value to others consequently contributing to your own effective business development. We are all familiar with the comfort zone in our lives because we spend time in that zone daily. But without continuous professional growth, our impact (and for some, even our happiness level) can become dormant. In order to become a thought leader, you must be willing to step outside of your comfort zone and focus on your knowledge development and influence on all sides of your expertise. With this in mind, below are 7 steps to standing out as a thought leader.
7 Steps to Obtaining Thought Leader Status
1. Gain experience and knowledge.
The technical industry knowledge required in most careers is ever changing, and continuous growth in this area is imperative for success. However, thought leaders are also skilled in non-technical areas. They need to be good client managers, project managers, and leaders as well. Within these areas, determine the skills where you excel and those that need improvement. Then, focus on bridging those gaps.
2. Maintain and develop effective, successful client relationships.
Develop trust and two-way positive communication with clients. Use communication effectively to understand the true needs and beliefs of your clients. Make every effort to deliver impactful results and keep the focus on the successes. Their success will ultimately be yours as well.
3. Find your niche.
Determine the areas of work that interest you and that you also excel in. Then, dive deeper. For example, you may decide to take part in round table discussions, get involved with online groups, or research trends in this area. It’s important to get to know your niche inside and out.
4. Share your successes and ideas.
Throughout your career, you have developed valuable experiences. As a thought leader, you should share your learnings with others. You can write a blog, lead a webinar, present at a conference, write a case study or even a book. If possible, perhaps even record a video or go on television in your community. Other ways to add value are through volunteer community efforts or public speaking at local events. Keep in mind that a key component of sharing is that the information should provide value to your audience. The content should allow them to achieve more than they would have otherwise achieved because the information is focused on current trends, solves problems, inspires dialogue, and provides practical advice, thereby positioning you as a trusted resource.
5. Encourage others to share your ideas.
There are many ways to get others to share your ideas and guidance. You can post your added value information on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram. And, if possible, give credit to others and link to their information. Then, they may be more likely to share or retweet your information. If you write a blog, you could request to be a guest blogger on someone else’s blog to get in front of a new audience. Another idea is to simply ask someone to share your content.
6. Schedule your influence.
Try to balance out your thought leadership efforts so they are not all occurring at one time. Schedule something every month or each quarter, for example, or create a time frame that works for you.
7. Take a break!
You work hard. To avoid burnout, be able to adequately deal with challenges, and consistently be at your best, it’s important to schedule time for your own wellness. Take time to focus on your hobbies, exercise, or even to make sure you are getting enough rest. Allow yourself the time and space to rejuvenate so that you can be at your best when business or leadership opportunities arise.
Following these seven tips can put you well on your way to being a thought leader whether you are in industrial automation and information solutions or a related field. Sharing your knowledge with others can help create a dedicated group of fans who replicate and scale your ideas into sustainable change whether it is in their company, industry or niche.