Jump online and ask that question and you’re led to believe that all it takes is to complete a short course, get a certificate and hey presto you’re a thought leader.
Sorry folks, there’s much more to it than meets the eye.
Either you’re a thought leader or you’re not. You already have knowledge others don’t have and the education, experience, know-how or original research to support this knowledge.
You’re also that person who is capable of original thinking, fresh ideas and new insights. You have the ability to think outside the box and are constantly looking at improving existing practices and processes and taking them beyond the confines of your company or community into the wider industry or eco-system.
You are that credible authority who leads the way, who shows us pathways we didn’t know existed and who inspires and influences us to take action through your stories, insights, wisdom, reasoning and experience.
Bottom line, you are a thinker and big ideas person … and someone capable of fomenting change.
So not surprisingly thought leaders tend to be CEOs, business and community leaders, innovators, change-makers, disruptors, entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, academics or individuals who feel strongly about an issue and want to change the world for the better.
What if I’m not a natural-born thought leader?
What if I don’t tick ALL the thought leadership boxes? What if I don’t have the requisite education or decades of experience in my field or industry? Should I give it away and not bother trying?
Being a great ideas person and an original thinker is a fantastic starting point.
Begin by positioning yourself as an expert or an authority in your field and progress from there. In fact, this is where most thought leaders start their journey. They don’t achieve that status first up. It takes time and has to be earned.
A client of mine who was once a journalist and publisher was appointed CEO of a health consumer advocacy. His knowledge of the health sector was relatively scant. However he threw himself into understanding the absolute detail of his new industry, forging critical connections and learning everything he needed to know about his new patch.
He also made the astute decision to begin researching the very consumers he represented. The findings from the research not only unearthed problems no-one knew existed but provided him with fresh insights and new ideas for improving existing health practices and in the process, the lives of health consumers.
In less than three years he’d made the move from expert to thought leader.
Top tips for progressing to thought leader status
For those looking to make the jump from expert to thought leader, you will need to:
- Be across the minutia and detail of your topic, niche or industry
- Develop a framework for your thought leadership aspirations
- Be original and authentic in your thinking and ideas and not regurgitate other people’s ideas.
- Conduct your own original research
- Be fearless and willing to take risks and challenge the status quo
- Accept there will be those who don’t agree with what they say and take criticism on the chin. Don’t batten down the hatches and go into hiding but see criticism as an opportunity to carry on the conversation, get more oxygen and continue the debate in an intelligent and constructive way.
- Inspire others to believe in your ideas, become your followers and in the process affect change by taking on your ideas.
If you are a CEO, business or community leader, innovator, entrepreneur or academic and interested in being positioned as an expert or thought leader, sign up here for an initial FREE CONSULTATION
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