Although “thought leader” has become a somewhat overused buzz word, it does help to describe a certain kind of communicator.
Thought leaders motivate and inspire. What they say changes others’ behaviour. Customers, peers, prospects and even competitors see thought leaders as experts they can trust. And thought leaders profit from this trust and ability to influence behaviour, particularly in business. A brand widely recognised as a thought leader garners more sales leads and desirable potential employees than less admired brands. Increased turnover and profits follow.
Why we have thought leaders galore
Social media and blogging, in particular, have enabled good communicators to become recognised thought leaders much more quickly than years ago. In those days, thought leaders mostly evolved through publishing articles in specialised journals, public speaking and traditional media exposure.
What it takes to be a thought leader
- Be original and innovative. Excellence, leadership and expertise in themselves do not make you a thought leader. You need unique insight, too.
- Be an excellent communicator. Even the most transformative idea has no effect unless you communicate it persuasively and authoritatively. Write well. Not business-speak, but clear language to explain even the most complex ideas. Sloppy material with obvious mistakes will persuade discerning readers – the kind you want as followers and clients – that you and your business are sloppy too. Failure.
- Be a blogger and active across platforms. Consistently post up-to-date, well-written content that your readers value. Use the latest tools to optimise your messages so that they reach the widest possible audience. Constantly build your network of followers.
- Be a listener. Observe what other leaders, experts and mentors are doing. Then apply your own style and insights. Use analytics and responses to your posts and products to refine your message. Give your followers value.
- Be real. People are interested in people. No-one likes to be preached at or sold. Show your readers your persona, what really matters to you, who you are. When something has gone wrong, take responsibility and explain how you will fix it.
- Be reliable. Check facts and figures. Check and check again. Making claims that are shown to be wrong instantly ruins a good reputation.
- Be persistent. Establishing yourself as a trustworthy expert takes years of hard work, consistency and innovation