5 Steps Toward Building Influence as a Great Thought Leader
Entrepreneur and CultureIQ are searching for the top high-performing cultures to be featured on our annual list. Think your company has what it takes? Click here to get started.
Do you have something to say about a topic you are well versed in? If so, you could become an influential thought leader in your field of expertise.
Thought leaders are CEOs, businesspeople, entrepreneurs and other individuals who are respected for their knowledge and expertise and who have something to say and know how to say it. Thought leadership can spread awareness about the individual's company while he or she develops a personal brand, influence and credibility. Just like building a business, becoming a recognized thought leader requires dedication and a strategy.
Here are five steps to take to help you build a strong thought-leadership campaign:
1. Clarify your purpose.
The most successful thought leaders have a purpose and a clear definition of what they want to accomplish. They also understand the time and dedication it can take to become influential. Before embarking on a thought-leadership program, consider your goals and what you want to achieve.
Do you want recognition? Do you want to earn credibility and respect from your peers and from the public? Do you want to offer advice and help people?
Figure out your purpose and why becoming a thought leader is important to you. Then build a strategy to support that purpose and your goals.
2. Identify your voice.
Thought leaders have a strong, identifiable and distinct voice that sets them apart from others. Their voice is their brand and their audience knows exactly what they stand for and what to expect from them. Most important, they don’t stray from their brand identity and instead look for opportunities to make it even stronger.
If you want to develop a strong voice and brand, ask yourself: What are my values? What do I stand for? What can I offer that isn’t obvious? What can people learn from me? Be clear and concise about your voice, your stances, your ideas and be sure that everything you do and say aligns with that. Remember to stay true to who you are because the most successful thought leaders are authentic.
One of the defining characters of thought leaders is their ability to effectively communicate their expertise and knowledge to their audience. A great way to get your thoughts and experience noticed is by writing contributed articles, op-eds and blog posts.
This allows you to be a part of the conversation, establish your voice, demonstrate your expertise and contribute to an ongoing dialogue. Writing gives you the opportunity to not only demonstrate your abilities but also earn credibility with your audience and other thought leaders in your industry.
Do you have advice and tips for other entrepreneurs? Can you provide lessons that you learned while creating and running your business? Figure out how you can turn your experience and background into a learning opportunity for others and start writing!
4. Build an active online presence.
Great thought leaders have mastered the art of sharing and putting their message and brand out there. A good way to offer advice and tips is to actively share them on social-media platforms. A great thought leader understands how instrumental social media is in developing their voice. He or she looks for opportunities and groups to join and uses different platforms to talk about his or her expertise and becomes a part of relevant conversations.
Building an active online presence requires a social-media strategy that allows optimal brand exposure and opportunities to actively connect with different audiences. Therefore, provide relevant and interesting content, actively engage with users, ask questions and offer feedback and insight on Twitter and Facebook. Establish your credibility, offer your expertise and make yourself reachable by participating in discussions on Reddit, Quora and LinkedIn.
Be strategic about your social-media profiles and always look for opportunities to build your brand and spread your message.
5. Be a mentor.
Great thought leaders have strong ideas that live on through the people they have influenced and helped out. These informal teachers understand the importance of becoming a mentor and shaping the next generation of leaders in their field. They want to share their experiences, lessons and knowledge so that others will continue in their footsteps.
Do you remember how much of an impact your mentor had on your life? Your mentor influenced who you are today as an entrepreneur and how you run your business. You have vast experience and are full of lessons and a wealth of knowledge that you could share with others to make an impact on their life and your own.
Great thought leaders are influential and affect the trajectory of popular topics and conversations. They have gained t he respect of their peers and the public and use their credibility to offer direction that others can benefit from. They understand the importance of building a sphere of influence and being recognized as an expert. Most important, thought leaders look for strategies to strengthen their position and share their views with others.