To be a thought leader, you’ll need the following four things:
Being a thought leader goes a step beyond “being an authority.” If you are a thought leader, you are an authority in your field AND everyone knows it.
My friend Nick is an authority on 80’s sci-fi. Despite being great at trivia questions, he’s not a thought leader. Very few people know how much Nick knows about Dune (the one with Sting in it), and even fewer people ask him about it – though he will talk about sandworms without encouragement.
Nick would have something to say about this.
Being a thought leader means combining experience and expertise with a unique viewpoint and, critically, telling people about it. Regularly and consistently. In an engaging way that solves problems, improves awareness, and promotes critical thinking. And, of course, in a style that’s fun to read.
This combination of abilities is a lot to ask, which is why being a thought leader is a bit demanding – yet rewarding.
Let’s look at the requisites of thought leaders in more detail and then get into how you can combine them to stand tall.
Anyone can talk a good game, but being able to back up what you say with evidence will set you apart from the crowd.
Experience is essential to being a thought leader. Your unique background and journey will elevate you above the noise and give your words more weight.
Masterclass learners benefit from the wisdom of people who are not only at the top of their fields but are also continually pushing the boundaries of what we can expect and achieve.
Take a look at some of its teachers.
Who can’t learn something about music from Hans Zimmer, cooking from Gordon Ramsey, or entrepreneurship from Richard Branson?
“Did you just put ketchup on that steak? Get out of my kitchen!” – Possibly Gordon Ramsey, but probably not.
The years they’ve put into their craft is why their names come to mind when we think about their industry.
You might not like what they’re doing. You might not even agree with how they do it. But they each have an indisputable track record that makes what they say worth considering.
When they speak, the room goes quiet. That’s priceless.
Expertise is not the same as experience. They typically go hand in hand, but you CAN have one without the other.
Experience could be described as how long you’ve been doing something. It might include the different clients or businesses you’ve worked with or the different environments in which you’ve demonstrated your skills.
Your expertise, however, includes the idea of how well you do something.
Plenty of people develop proficiency over the years, but that’s not expertise. Washing cars for ten years gives you experience. Expertise might be learning and applying the skills that allow your service to offer:
And so on.
The red metal glistened in the sunset rays. Sheila couldn’t believe how polished her car was. And BTW, is the glass really there? Is this even my car?
Doing the same thing over and over again makes you really good at that thing. Expertise, however, implies that you have range and a specialism or two in addition to depth.
With discipline and determination, anyone can develop expertise. There’s no prescribed amount of time necessary to build up the skills and knowledge that comprise expertise.
Nonetheless, expertise requires motivation, learning, practice, and repeated application of acquired skills.
The energy you spend developing your unique judgment, knowledge, and skills pushes you ever closer to being a thought leader in your industry or niche.
Part of being a leader is standing out from the crowd. Ways to do this include being bigger, faster, and stronger than others around you. These abilities often earn respect, although sometimes they earn ire.
Another way to be noticed is to have different ideas.
Going against the crowd can be dangerous. When people go against the status quo, they open themselves up to ridicule. Worse, they can be ignored.
That’s where your experience and expertise come in. Your experience and expertise are essential because they provide solid ground that your crazy ideas can stand upon.
The world you build in the clouds might come true because you‘ve been “there” and you’ve done “it.”
When you have a past, people will more readily believe you can predict the future.
What’s more, saying something that hasn’t been said yet will be so refreshing that people will want to hear more of it.
When you say something worth hearing, the crowds listen.
A lot of content online is a rehashing of other people’s ideas. It’s a joy to read original thinking in an original voice.
You’ve got the experience.
You have developed expertise.
You’ve got something to say that nobody else is saying.
(Some don’t even dare to think it).
To be a thought-leader — instead of a frustrated business leader — you need to share these insights and opinions.
People are starved for new ways to look at things.
Red phone or blue phone… how about: no phone?
As with Masterclass, you don’t need people to agree. For instance, there are 20+ writers teaching masterclasses over there. Each has different ideas, viewpoints, and recommendations, demonstrating that there is no single correct method new writers should learn.
On the contrary, it’s healthy to have divergent viewpoints. As a thought leader, you use your forward thinking to help create a spirit of open-mindedness and creativity, whatever industry you are in.
If blog posts are sand, posts from thought leaders are those unexpected, striking stones you find at the beach.
Some are too good to throw back in the water. People take them home to make necklaces.
They’ve been worn smooth with age or by waves and they stand out from the others because they’re a bit different, whether in shape or size or color.
Being a thought leader is more than a marketing strategy. Not everyone can do it. But if you can, the world needs you. Over time you and your audience will benefit, time and time again. And when you don’t have the time to juggle writing content with all that other work, we’re here to help.
We work closely with our clients to fully understand and express their ideas. Then our expert writers and editors turn these industry insights into engaging pieces that speak in your brand’s voice, bringing your thought leadership closer to the audience.
Our experience has shown us that authenticity drives engagement. Our expertise helps us negotiate that balance between authenticity, engagement, and achieving business objectives. Our viewpoint is that content should be artisan-crafted. Our ability to communicate is our vocation.
We don’t all have cats, but we do all have plants. And huge inkwells.
You establish yourself as a thought leader by creating and sharing content regularly and consistently. Over time, clients, customers, and other businesses will come to your website for resources and to learn something about your industry.
When they need the product or service you offer, they’ll come to you because they trust you.
To this end, we help you by crafting useful, high-performing content on schedule using the exceptional, finely-honed skills at our disposal — not least of all being real humans — to provide genuine value and make meaningful connections with your leads, clients, and industry as a whole.
Use your expertise to tell us what you think and we’ll use our expertise to spread the word.
Written by Dean Edwards
Dean lives in Southern France but was born in the UK, where he studied business and IT, and earned a degree in Writing. When he’s not creating content, he’s writing fiction, making music, and practicing martial arts. This is part bio and part affirmation.
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