Thought leadership is more than just providing products and services to potential customers. Instead, it dwells more on being seen as an established expert in your respective industry for the reliable insights, ideas, and information you can provide.
As you become an authoritative figure, your brand becomes highly marketable—giving you better sales and attracting top talents to work with you.
Ultimately, being a thought leader makes you the top-of-mind choice that people – both potential customers and aspiring industry partners – will look for when it comes to answering the most difficult questions, recent updates, and innovative ideas in your niche.
So, how will you learn the true value of thought leadership to benefit your brand and how can you begin your journey to becoming an established expert?
What is good thought leadership?
Developing good thought leadership is a complex process that leaders must undergo to become a valuable resource to their audiences. To become a thought leader, you must remember to develop actionable solutions that solve your audience’s problems with novelty and unique approaches.
For example, in content marketing, thought leadership is crucial. Because content is still king in this day and age, the quality of content your brand produces should give in-depth answers to pain points and questions your audience is facing and adds clearer context into the mix.
Additionally, your content as a thought leader must give a unique perspective that reframes the way customers think about the issues they care about.
On the other hand, bad thought leadership leaves people directionless without specific, action-oriented ideas for their careers. Meanwhile, good thought leadership is known to help people become more innovative and create better decisions in their organizations.
The benefits of being a thought leader
Being a thought leader is a never-ending learning process only the most willful people are ready to undergo. But why is that? Why should you be spending years of your life training to become a good thought leader?
The following benefits will show you why:
You’ll earn the trust of your audiences
Trust is the biggest resource you’ve gained from your audiences. When you’ve treasured that trust, they’ll keep supporting your business in return. So take the time to cultivate your credibility by continuously being trustworthy in anything your brand does. In doing so, watch as people become casual viewers of your work, into long-time fans and cheerleaders.
Oprah Winfrey is a great example. Oprah built her brand on creating trust and connecting deeply with her audience. And today, she’s one of the most powerful and influential women in the world.
Your brand becomes exposed to countless viewers
As a thought leader, you’ll get access to various media opportunities and become a sought-after individual. Watch as doors to opportunities swing wide-open once you’ve become an authority in your industry. Additionally, the biggest bloggers, influencers and marketing agencies will get in line at your doorstep to have you on their platforms. This means you don’t have to pay for their publicity!
Take Simon Sinek for instance. He got his start through a powerful TED talk and used that as an opportunity to branch out. Today, he’s seen as an authority on communication and sharing ideas that help other leaders and organizations inspire beneficial action.
You’ll become an innovative thinker everyone will trust
As a thought leader, you should be developing new and impactful content that will forever change the way your industry does business. After all, you want to plant the seeds for the success of your industry today.
One thing to remember is this: thought leaders are not easily replaced. Thought leadership is why Apple retains the most loyal customer base in the world. Steve Jobs was different. And his innovative ideas sparked a generation of customers that have remained loyal. He once said, “you always had to be a little different to buy an Apple computer.”
The characteristics of a good thought leader
It’s impossible to be a good leader without developing the right character for it. Here are the top traits you should look to improve on as a thought leader.
An insightful thought leader goes beyond the superficial events of their industry. In doing so, their ideas will be able to change their industries in brand-new ways never thought possible. But at the same time, good thought leader insights must also resonate with listeners, allowing them to grow on their own.
Good insights must resonate well with listeners. After all, if your information is impenetrable, no one would be able to understand, let alone feel immersed, in your exciting, new ideas. Try out a variety of tactics such as infographics, animations, and videos to be able to capture different audiences.
People want to get rid of their problems as soon as they can. After all, these problems can slow their progress. Being a good thought leader requires you to harness your experiences and turn them into actionable solutions your audience can use right away.
How do you know if your insights are effective? Once your audiences become introspective with your ideas and use them to challenge industry norms, then you know you’ve made impactful content.
As a thought leader, you’re expected to create goal-oriented projects along with steps to make them a reality. However, avoid creating product/service-based projects often since these can alienate your audience. Remember: no one likes being sold to. So to keep your ongoing audiences satisfied, strike a balance between your commercial objectives and engaging content.
How to become a good thought leader
As you look to enhance the above-mentioned characteristics that make a good thought leader here are ways you can sharpen.
Establish yourself as an expert
Becoming a good thought leader means you are recognized as an established expert in your field.
This can be accomplished by writing articles, blog posts, or books on your area of expertise. You can also engage in different speaking engagements or interviews to build your reputation. These efforts let you amplify your voice to start sharing your ideas with others.
Keep in mind though that thought leaders aren’t born overnight. That’s why constant and relevant engagement with your audience and fellow experts helps build your credibility within the industry.
Keep on learning
A good leader is an even better student. An exemplary thought leader never stops learning about their industry. As such, you need to go on a deep dive on relevant subjects and conduct research to become better at what you’re doing.
Be a better communicator
As a leader, people will look to you for guidance. You need to learn how and where to communicate with your audiences so that they could properly get and understand your insights. Speaking your customers’ language is a good place to start when you want to improve on your communication.
How do you drive thought leadership?
Through thought leadership, you can become a problem solver by simply asking the right questions. But the question is, how?
With the following steps, along with the right patience, dedication, and willingness to learn, you’ll soon find yourself to be the thought leader you want to be:
Micro-blogging via Twitter
You can start by promoting valuable content like blogs or media through platforms such as Twitter. As a micro-blogger, remember to double-check your facts to avoid spreading misinformation and never share content that isn’t yours.
Once these blogs are posted, take the time to engage with your audience so you can establish rapport and relationships with them. The best way to start is by creating threads that keep your audience hooked and engaged while at your profile. Additionally, it’s through this thread that allows you to go beyond the 280-character limit. This allows you to tell a fully-formed story and increase engagement.
You can also try being active on Twitter Spaces. In these spaces, the more active your brand is, the greater your reach and influence. Some thought leaders create threads that express their insights and opinions about relevant issues and topics.
However, there are a sizable number of Twitter users who are notorious for instigating feuds. As a thought leader, it’s your responsibility to be above these petty squabbles and continue doing your projects.
Speak up about relevant updates in your industry
Every industry or niche is constantly changing. As a thought leader, you should not be taken by surprise when asked difficult questions. To continuously become a good thought leader and be able to answer the most harrowing questions, keep yourself updated with the latest industry news.
But this is more than keeping up with the latest news. A thought leader is a researcher and a forward thinker. This means you shouldn’t just know the facts, but also have unique insights that change people’s perspectives on the news.
Consequently, you can use this knowledge to create solutions to real-world problems. For example, a business thought leader will use the latest industry news to create unique insights to their advantage.
Offer to guest post in various publications
Guest posting in more authoritative publications is a great way to gain exposure. As you expand beyond your own blog and team up with bigger, well-respected platforms, you get to reach more people and become bigger than you were before.
This is where your online reputation and social circle help. Industry leaders are more likely to invite you to speak if you have a strong online presence. So don’t neglect being active online.
Start a podcast
Podcasts are the in-thing now. As the fastest-growing medium with over 2,000,000 active podcasts today, podcasts are a great way to build your business and grow your online presence.
Research shows that 78% of podcast listeners listen to learn something new. You can tap into this by giving your listeners something new, different and exciting to think about.
Once you learn how to start a podcast, you can use it to share your ideas and strategies. Invite experts and thought leaders to learn from them.
Engage with other experts on social media or other channels
A good thought leader is not afraid to admit what they don’t know. Remember that being a thought leader is more than just speaking, it’s also listening. So aside from speaking about your insights, take the time to listen and reach out to more experienced leaders than you.
A good way to start is by commenting on blog posts. Or you can respond to users on Reddit, Twitter or Quora threads. This is a great activity because not only will you get great information for something you’re not aware of, but you also let your fellow thought leader feel good about themselves since they’re asked about their expertise.
Also, the social medium you choose is vital. LinkedIn is a great place to connect with bigger creators. By making these connections, you can explore opportunities to work together with these experts to widen your reach.
Remember, the more you listen, the more others will listen to you.
Don’t be afraid to experiment
Thought leaders are always looking for new ways to reach their audience and share their message. Mix up your approach and constantly experiment with new platforms and strategies to grow your followers.
There’s no single answer to the question of how to experiment as a thought leader. But if you’re looking to add a little spice to your thought leadership strategy, here are three approaches you can try out.
- Think outside the blog post. Traditional thought leadership takes the form of blog posts, articles, or whitepapers. But there are other ways to get your ideas out there. Give a talk at a conference, host a webinar, or record a podcast episode if you can to expand your areas of influence.
- Do customer research. Finding the best problems you can solve come from the people your industry is serving. Through various customer research frameworks such as the Voice of Customer and message mining approach, you can uproot customer pain points to come up with solutions that spark interest and innovation among your audience.
- Scope your competition. You’re not the only thought leader in your industry. That’s why it’s important to have a full understanding of how your competitors are delivering content so you can find ways to do it better. Subscribe to their newsletter, visit their blogs, and listen to their podcasts to get an idea of how you can capitalize on their strengths and weaknesses in thought leadership.
Thought leadership is exciting but also very challenging. When done correctly, it can help you stand out and make a difference. As a thought leader, you become more recognizable and can help others in making better decisions. Some key points to remember:
- Thought leadership isn’t selling a product. Instead, remember that this process is about establishing yourself as an authority in your industry. Avoid being too sales-y so you don’t alienate your audience. Your main objective is to use market-based research to answer your audience’s questions.
- Authenticity is the language of any good thought leader. So avoid restating old ideas, but offer unique perspectives that inform your audience’s opinions or decisions. This is how you resonate with your audience and build your brand.
- A thought leader is always learning. Remember to learn and be open to new ideas from multiple sources to be wiser, even if these ideas don’t match yours.
Are you ready to become a thought leader? Check the Skill Success blog for more resources on personal and professional development.