The following is an excerpt from our free guide “The Global Guide to Personal Branding for Executives”
A thought leader is an individual who is recognized as authoritative and an influencer. Thought leaders are recognized by others as such because of the value they bring to a subject or industry. One cannot just become a thought leader overnight. You must prove your credibility to others through your knowledge on a subject because of your specific education, experience, or background. The best thought leadership is fueled by passion and most thought leaders are considered experts in their fields.
When preparing yourself to be viewed as a thought leader, focus on what you are passionate about. Focusing on your passions will ensure you have enough material to fuel your brand. Thought leadership includes intentional writing and speaking opportunities where you can bring experience and credibility to a topic.
Thought leaders are recognized often as those who could, because of their knowledge, credibility, and influence: speak on panels at conferences and events, serve on advisory boards, land new leadership positions, or serve on a board of directors. The best thought leaders embrace humility. They know their area of expertise backward and forwards, but also defer to others when something is not in their wheelhouse. They know what they are the expert at and what they are not.
So, You want to be a thought leader? The first step to becoming a thought leader is to be great at what you do. But it doesn’t stop there. Thought leaders are lifelong students, constantly learning, improving tan d more importantly, sharing their insights for the benefit of others.
When first deliberately preparing oneself to become a thought leader, networking can help you establish connections, that can lead to relationships, that can lead to opportunities. Networking also affords others the opportunity to learn about you, what you do, and your areas of expertise. Networking can help you get in front of people who should know about you, those to who you can offer value to. Participate in industry events with sessions on subjects that you want to be known for. Identify networking opportunities with your industry or professional associations and alumni clubs. You can also build networks online, on LinkedIn and other platforms- more on that below.
Publishing, Blogging, and Social Media
If you are a good writer and can commit to quality, blog-length articles on a semi-regular basis, then publish to your own blog or contribute to others. Quality is more important than quantity, but blogging does require some frequency in order to establish your voice. The good news is that if you do blog, there are more ways than ever to share your articles. LinkedIn’s publishing platform is a great way to share articles with your network and connect with potential new contacts. Publishing to LinkedIn publishing platform also lends credibility to your network if your connections comment on your articles. LinkedIn articles are also highly shareable and can help amplify your audience. Publishers like Forbes and Business Insider also present opportunities for those who can demonstrate a point of view and industry expertise. You’ll need to prove yourself for opportunities to contribute to these networks, but the return can be significant in building your personal brand and amplifying your reach.
If you simply cannot commit to the frequency or length of publishing articles (typically 1000-1500 words, with the occasional 2500 word article as a best practice), leverage social media platforms like Twitter, or depending on your industry, Facebook. Approach these platforms in the same way as you would a blog, though. Commit to frequent updates and be deliberate. Focus on quality engagement and stock to what you know. You can still also leverage LinkedIn by commenting on the posts or articles of others or by joining LinkedIn group discussions. The key here is to reinforce your area of expertise while offering value to others.
Awards and nominations can give serious weight to your name and define you as a more credible thought leader, but it can be difficult for executives to enter the nomination process passively. To achieve success in this arena, many executives nominate themselves or ask a colleague to do so on their behalf. Stay ahead by research key awards in your industry, be mindful of crucial deadlines and requirements, and don’t be afraid to nominate yourself.
Whether online or in-person, public speaking events are a valuable way to catapult yourself into the realm of thought leadership. With so many executives shying away from public speaking due to its daunting nature, agreeing to speak at such events can make you stand out in your industry, particularly if you do so repeatedly. When public speaking, remember to take pictures and recordings of the event to share your success and create new content for your social media platforms to maximize your efforts.
Download the full guide here “The Global Guide to Personal Branding for Executives”