Thought leaders are more than just successful businessmen and women. They are individuals who are seen as authorities in their fields. They are go-to resources when someone is seeking expertise. In addition, thought leaders profit, in some way, from being seen as an authority on a topic. This usually means that businesses get more clients because of the connection to the thought leader or that the thought leader’s contributions to the discussion are turned into courses, speaking tours and social media campaigns. These things amplify the message further, making the thought leader even more sought after.
Many people set out to become thought leaders. They want their notoriety to pay off in business. But becoming a thought leader is not as simple as being the loudest person in the room. You have to have a message that people want to hear, can relate to and receive in the right moment. You have to love your topic, put your own spin on it and believe that you are telling the best story possible. You will also need experience social media, video, networking and public speaking. There is a lot that goes into being a thought leader.
Thought leaders are not born. They are made through experience and passion for their business. Of course, they have to be experts in their field, but it goes beyond that. They must also be:
Thought leaders share their thoughts. You have to be someone who is willing to discuss the same topic over and over again for years. You will have to find new ways to share the message. And, you will have to be comfortable answering the same questions over and over and remember that this is sometimes the first time people are hearing from you.
Thought leaders are not condescending. On the contrary, they want people to ask questions and use their methods. They want word-of-mouth recommendations. They want to give advice.
When you are at events, you do not have to speak to the most important people in the room. In fact, you probably want to go out of your way to engage the people who you recognize as just starting off. Speak with them and be open to feedback. Hearing from someone new can help you consider how your message is being received. And, in accepting feedback, you are showing that you are approachable and willing to consider new ways of doing business.
Thought leaders share the stories of their journeys so that others can see that success is possible. Transparency about personal issues, failures and roadblocks reminds the audience that thought leaders are human. You want your audience to see your journey as one that they can make too. You want them to see your success and know they could have it. Otherwise, your message is not meaningful and you become just another voice.
Honesty and vulnerability also help you make connections with people who may not be in your target audience but can contribute to your goals in some way. Investors may connect with you over your background and want to take part in your future work. Organizations may hear you speak about your failures and ask you to give a speech to their employees about how you turned things around. Your true story becomes part of your thought leadership.
Thought leadership is not created by firing off a blog and hoping it gains traction. It takes years to become an expert in your field, to make the connections needed to be seen as an authority and to craft your platform and message so that it resonates with people. Thought leaders have personal drive and the willingness to devote their time to their goals.
Thought leaders show persistence by publishing new material and social media content regularly. They read everything they can that is related to their industry. They publicly comment on new materials posted by others. They make themselves available to the media. They appear in public at networking events and industry nights. They offer education and mentorship to spread their message and support others.
Being a thought leader takes work. Once you are recognized as one, you have got to keep up with the demands in order to keep the title. If thought leadership is something you feel destined for, check out the Master of Science in Organizational Leadership and Entrepreneurship at Grand Canyon University.
To learn more about how Grand Canyon University’s Colangelo College of Business provides great businesses students with the tools to become future thought leaders, visit our website or click the Request More Information Button on this page.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University.