The OED defines a thought leader as:
'an influential or innovative thinker; a person with intellectual influence over a society or group.'
It's not enough to be an expert to be considered a thought leader. While thought leaders are experts in their field, it is what they do with that knowledge that differentiates them from other experts.
Thought leaders share their knowledge, they use it to shed light on events, to influence decisions, and bring about change (whether little or large).
It takes time to achieve the transition from being an expert to becoming a thought leader, but it doesn't have to be daunting.
A great place to start is to increase your visibility by becoming a regular commentator in your field:
- Share your insights and knowledge on the latest news
- Promote change by highlighting endeavours in your community that you approve of
- Give people access to information they would struggle to find elsewhere (in a format that's easily comprehensible)
- Draw on your considerable experience to provide people with useful advice
Why become a thought leader?
- It builds your credibility as well as your search-ability.
- It makes you more engaging, making it easier for you to market your business without a hard sell.
- It starts conversations through which you can continue to grow.
- It makes your business stand out from the crowd.
Thought leaders are the informed opinion leaders and the go-to people in their field of expertise. They are trusted sources who move and inspire people with innovative ideas; turn ideas into reality, and know and show how to replicate their success. They create a dedicated group of friends, fans and followers to help them replicate and scale those ideas into sustainable change not just in one company but in an industry, niche or across an entire ecosystem. Thought leadership leads to exposure for your ideas both inside and outside your company – particularly with journalists, analysts, event organizers and conference hosts. It will give you access to people who can help you make things happen - leaders in your organization or community; innovators in your profession or industry; or researchers in government or regulatory circles.