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Who is a thought leader and why do they matter?

While the aim of every business owner is to run a successful company, many modern professionals also have their sights set on another, more esoteric goal: becoming a “thought leader” in their field.

Thought leadership is commonly discussed in the business world, and often sounds like just another corporate buzzword. But behind the jargon is the ambition of being viewed as a credible industry expert, one who cuts through the “noise” and offers something worth listening to.

What is a thought leader?

Thought leaders are seen as trustworthy, go-to authorities among industry colleagues and peers, they possess an innate ability to contribute to the conversations happening today, while also being able to speculate on what is going to happen tomorrow. Rather than chime in on every topic, they set the pace for the industry and offer intelligent insights and informed opinions.

As the phrase implies, having these insightful thoughts and ideas is only part of being a thought leader.

Establishing yourself as a thought leader

Thought leadership status is not achieved through a single article, social media post or networking event. You have to build your experience and create credibility over the long term. Experience takes time, patience, hard work and a willingness to listen and learn from others.

Leaders who observe and connect information from a number of sources are generally well positioned to create ideas that are informed by the needs of the marketplace. Credibility combines that expertise with a measure of humility, honesty and an appreciation for the human aspect of leading people.

Social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter, become the foundations for your thought leadership strategy and key channels for your social networking.

Clarify your area of expertise and stick to it

Thought leaders need to be clear and consistent on their stances within their area of expertise. Don’t attempt to be a thought leader in every area related to your industry. Instead, focus on what you know best and hone in on that message repeatedly. It’s more effective to go deep on a few topics, than to delve across too many topics.

Keep learning about your industry
Every industry is evolving — some faster than others — and as a thought leader, you’ll need to stay on top of what’s happening so you can share and comment on trends.
Being a thought leader requires forward thinking, but you must also have the discipline to study market dynamics to find patterns. From there, you can combine what you have learned analysing those patterns with your vision to solve real-world problems.

Listen to others

Thought leaders don’t have all the answers, and they’re never done learning. It is important to admit what you don’t know, and remain humble enough to listen to what others have to say.

True thought leaders genuinely understand and listen to each other’s stories….but ultimately, thought leaders need to inspire your consumers to act – to take the next step in their journey.

My advice: don’t try to force it. You can’t make anyone want to share their expertise. But you can implement programs to highlight and support those who do.