We hear a lot about thought leaders these days. They seem to be everywhere. And perhaps you want to become a thought leader.
A thought leader provides big ideas for others to follow. As a thought leader, you can be heard and help find solutions to problems that plague your career field. It’s also possible for you to gain influence and shape business and policy even beyond your field when you’re a thought leader.
However, if you want to be a thought leader, you need to put in the work. It doesn’t just happen overnight. Here are six things you must do to get out there and be considered a leader:
1. Find Your Niche
First, you need to find your niche. What are you passionate about? What area do you know? Dig in there and figure out where you fit. You need to be ready to talk about something over and over again. You need to feel your subject so that you are ready to evangelize about it. Figure out where you belong, and then own it.
2. Be Genuine
In order to be a thought leader, you need to be genuine. You can’t be someone else when you’re giving interviews and interacting with people at conferences. It’s important that your online and public personas match who you are actually are. While you can’t always be exactly the same all the time (we all have different selves), you can be authentically you. And it’s vital that you are.
3. Get Help Shoring Up Your Weaknesses
One of the things I’ve done for thought leaders is to coach them with their writing. Not everyone likes to write, but it’s almost required for most thought leaders. You’ll be asked to create op-eds and write for different publications. And it’s important to take advantage of these opportunities if you want your ideas to get “out there.” So, I coach thought leaders to help them improve their writing.
You might have weaknesses in areas like social media. Or maybe you have a hard time presenting or speaking. Be realistic about your weaknesses — then ask for help shoring them up. Hire a coach. Get help from friends and family. However you do it, it’s important to identify your shortcomings and then work on getting the help you need to improve.
4. Use Media
Your use of social media is a big part of what can gain you a following as a thought leader. This means you need to identify the platforms you should be on, whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, or whatever else is out there.
It’s not just about being on social media, though. You need to use the tools available to you. This includes using live video or creating stories with Instagram and Snapchat.
And, while you’re at it, make sure you pitch yourself to different media. Be available for interviews as an expert. Appear on different podcasts. See if you can get on a local TV station.
I mentioned this in an example above for good reason. Even with all the social media items available to us, it’s important to write. Local newspaper? Yes. Publications like Inc and Entrepreneur? Check. Your own blog? Sure thing. It can even be beneficial to publish on LinkedIn. Hone your writing skills and get used to presenting your ideas in written form.
6. Get in Some Face Time
You can’t succeed as a thought leader if you never make it into the “real” world. This means you need to network in person. Pitch yourself to speak at conferences. Go to networking events in person. Your local Chamber of Commerce and service organizations (like Rotary or Civitans) can be good places to network in person. Trade shows and conferences also offer good opportunities.
As you work to become a thought leader, you need to plan ahead and look for many different ways to share your ideas.