Have You Heard Of Thought Leadership? Here’s What You Need To Know

When it comes to Thought Leadership you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a relatively new term.  It isn’t. Socrates, Einstein, Newton and a variety of other historic figures would have been considered thought leaders in their fields.

In the last five years the term has gained a lot of popularity as the competition between brands and companies has grown and attracting the consumer has become increasingly difficult.

So how can you tell if you are a thought leader or whether you could become one?

Here are 5 things you need to know:

  1. What is Thought Leadership?

Thought leadership represents the person or firm that is famous and well-known for its expertise and has authority over the competitors. This person, brand or company usually has a great deal of experience and expertise behind them.

Sadly, the term “thought leader” has become so over-used in recent years that there is a wealth of people claiming to be thought leaders who simply do not have what they need to support the title.  They lack all or either expertise, experience, relevance, authority, trust, integrity and authority among other things.

Forbes defines a thought leader as: “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.”

Whilst Wikipedia defines a thought leader as: “A thought leader is an individual or firm that is recognized as an authority in a specialized field and whose expertise is sought and often rewarded.[1] Thought leaders are commonly asked to speak at public events, conferences or webinars to share their insight with a relevant audience. The Oxford English Dictionary gives as its first citation for the phrase an 1887 description of Henry Ward Beecher as “one of the great thought-leaders in America.” The term had earlier (1876) been applied to Ralph Waldo Emerson, who was said to manifest “the wizard power of a thought-leader.”[2]

In Entrepreneur.com a thought leader is described as: “someone whose views on a subject are taken to be authoritative and influential.”

  1. What does it take to be a Thought Leader?

When it comes to being a successful thought leader it’s important to assess first whether or not you should be one in the first place?  Maybe you are on a trajectory which will take you to becoming a thought leader? But you have to ask yourself the question – have I got there yet?

Here are some things that form the backbone of a thought leadership strategy:

  • Skills and a great deal of expertise in a specific field or profession
  • Actively involved in his field
  • A crystal clear thinking and point of view
  • Authority and credibility
  • Has a strong following in the community

No two thought leaders will ever be the same and therefore no two thought leadership strategies should be the same.  However, it is essential to consider what distinguishes you from the crowd? And ask yourself some harsh questions over the quality of the thought leadership content you are creating.

  1. Be a Thought Leader

Thought leadership is not like a status that you can achieve by posting a single article on a website or by sharing a unique thought on social media. It is a long game where you have to work hard to earn this title. You have to improve your skills and expertise and credibility is the most important thing in thought leadership.

You cannot create too much content when you want to become a thought leader – it’s absolutely essential that you are always creating good quality, relevant content in the area in which you want to be known as a thought leader.

Inc.com advises that to be a successful thought leader consistency is key: “If you’re going to be a thought leader, people have got to remember you. They won’t if you’re not publishing content on a regular basis. Even if you provide a few strong, memorable articles, it won’t be enough to establish you as a leader. You’ve got to commit to consistent content creation if you’re serious about building your brand.”

  1. It takes time

You cannot step into the thought leadership space over night.  Thought leadership is a long-term strategy that requires you to put in time, effort, resource, finance and more.  If you’re not willing to invest these things into your thought leadership strategy there’s really no point.

Get ready to work hard!

In order to be a successful thought leader you must have created a publicity, content, marketing and sales strategy.  Having a sales funnel is absolutely key to ensuring you make the best of what you are doing.

  1. Keep Learning

If you want to be a thought leader, keeping up to date with your industry is absolutely key.  Learning should be a regular part of your life and, as advised by chartered marketer Christine Watson of TrainingMatchmaker.com “everyone should have a learning plan”.  Training Matchmaker lists thousands of free learning opportunities online.

Most industries are changing on a daily basis.  Markets are evolving and you will never be able to say you know everything about the field in which you are aiming to become a thought leader in.  However, if you are constantly learning and adapting you can be at the forefront of that change.

Thought leadership is all about thinking differently and the only way to do that is to be analysing and learning all the time.

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