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5 ways to become a thought leader

Posted by Jessica Langley on November 2018

Have you ever thought of yourself as an information pioneer, trailblazer or market disruptor? If you answered yes, chances are you could be seen as a thought leader within your organization.

Thought leaders have an innate ability to harness the power of knowledge sharing and then communicate how that knowledge can be used to help shape industries, impact business strategy and expand market growth.

But how do you become a thought leader or work toward becoming a stronger voice within your organization?

Man making a presentation in a successful business meeting

Organizations want to showcase their executives as thought leaders to strengthen their relationships and reputation. Forbes describes the power of thought leadership to come from generating or contributing – meaningfully – to conversations around industry topics. It impacts our marketing strategy, how we communicate with clients and even how we sell. Uniquely, the products and services that we sell are only a piece of the puzzle that drives organizational success. The way we impact our community, advocate within our industry and tell our brand story has the most lasting impression on clients.


Here are 5 simple ideas that can help you as you begin your journey toward thought leadership:

  1. Approach thought leadership holistically, not hierarchically. Keep your content simple yet powerful enough to promote action.
  1. Always be a good listener. There are already too many talkers who value their own opinion above others.
  1. Be a skillful researcher who always has the pulse of their audience. Look for the ideas that are not well documented.
  1. Create content that is informative and opinionated. It will help position you and your company’s brand voice.
  1. Be someone people like to learn from. Be open to others' point of view and build interpersonal connections.

Advocacy in practice

As an advocacy leader within the National Healthcareer Association (NHA), thought leadership is a huge part of my job. There are expectations to find, research and communicate future and potential hot topics, and to anticipate future barriers that may arise due to industry changes. At times, it can be challenging to stay one step ahead. Recently, I heard Tom Marks, Principle of TMA+ Peritus, give a highly insightful talk on this very topic. I was particularly moved by the following statement:

“When thought leadership is presented in the right place, at the right time, and in the right light, it adds relevant differentiation, respect, trust, and the enviable position of being knowledgeable and resourceful. Thought leaders produce critical insights that help businesses understand the behaviors of their audience from hesitancy to consideration and from affinity to preference, and all touch points in between.”

When you look back at the descriptors in the quote, you have to ask yourself — Who wouldn’t want to be seen as a thought leader?

But that expectation can be a bit intimidating at first. Here are a few of the great takeaways from his session that might help ease your anxiety and help you become a successful thought leader: 

  • Thought leaders have the ability to connect the dots when there are no dots to connect.
  • Thought leaders explore the validity of their thought leadership through Voice of Customer research and discover the wants, needs, subjects and pain-points of customers.
  • Thought leaders look to develop critical insights that will help drive messaging and critical insight selling.
  • Individuals need knowledge to become thought leaders. You’ll need to prove your knowledge in order to prove that you’re a thought leader.

There is an art and some science to becoming a thought leader. The art is the delivery of information and the science is what is remembered. How will you execute on each?

Topics: thought leadership

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