Do You Want to Be a Thought Leader?

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When I first became serious about writing online, both in personal blogging and in freelance web writing, I read a lot about thought leadership. But, what baffled me was, despite everyone talking about becoming a thought leader, no one really talked about how one actually becomes a thought leader in your certain area of expertise.

The thing that often isn’t mentioned, and that I had to figure out for myself, is that before you can be a thought leader, you must be the leader of your own thoughts! Being a thought leader isn’t just about becoming a beacon of insight and sharing ideas. It also means that you have come to a deeper understanding and connection with yourself, and you’re now sharing the insights you now have with the wider world.

Before you can even begin to plan out your mission to become a thought leader in any topic, you must start by asking yourself, “Am I truly present and engaged with my thoughts?” You must dive deep into your internal dialogue, anchoring yourself at the point where your passion and your interests intersect. Once you’ve found this place, share the story of how you came to this point. People love stories, and being personal with your passion about a field or subject is how you get other people to become invested.

Yes, the digital media ecosystem is quite vast and intimidating. Yet, once you realize that even if a fraction of percent of others out there could share in your curiosities, that’s still many thousands of potential content consumers. These like-minded souls are your initial tribe, waiting to connect and converse with someone they’d always hope to meet. So, once you’ve crafted your thought leadership narrative, the next thing to do is to engage with the perspectives of your newfound tribe to further enrich your own knowledge and perspective.

How do you nurture your audience around your thought leadership?

The first step to becoming a thought leader is to not pose as a leader at all, but rather, as a conscientious and careful observer. Initiate a conversation around your ideas. Then, if you find a void in the discussion where your unique perspective belongs, that’s when you fill it. You become a leader by first contributing or simply evolving the dialogue.

Yes, the path may sometimes feel uncertain, but you must learn to embrace the silence that often precedes results. You must let life’s unpredictability usher in opportunities and open unexpected doors for you. After all, venturing into the unknown often reveals things we couldn’t have imagined before.

You come to learn that nurturing thought leadership is art. While it’s tempting to chase trends or saturate the space with content, genuine thought leadership stems from a deeper journey within yourself. It’s not just about what you share, but how and why you choose to tell your story in the way that you do.

Initially, you be may be met with a deafening silence, but you must be persistent.It’s alright to pause, to allow yourself to rejuvenate and re-align. But, never let your flame of passion dwindle.Whenever you find yourself stuck, involve yourself in a community of like-minded individuals, even if it’s in a different field. Let their own experiences guide and inspire you and even collaborate with them if it makes sense. Remember, success in one domain often offers insights applicable across fields.

In essence, thought leadership isn’t a destination but a continuous journey of introspection, connection, and evolution. Commit to it, and let your voice echo in the hearts and minds of many.

How does one transition from being an observer to a thought influencer? 

True thought leadership isn’t about mirroring discussions, adding nuanced opinions, or perhaps challenging existing beliefs. The beauty is that with becoming a thought leader, there’s no singular path. The key to establishing yourself as a trusted voice in any given area lies in your authenticity, your ability to reflect and gain insight, and your ability to engage with those who are interested in what you have to say.

Sometimes, our quest to find our “perfect niche: blinds us to the myriad possibilities that lie in exploring different horizons. There’s wisdom in fluidity, with transitioning across niches and disciplines until you find one that resonates with you the most. But, remember, simply accumulating content and publishing it wholesale doesn’t qualify anyone as a thought leader. It’s building a strong, deep connection that resonates with an audience that truly matters.

As our world overflows with constant sales pitches, genuine introspection becomes invaluable. Thoughts aren’t mere commodities; they are precious and valuable intellectual property assets. Their worth can’t be dictated by a price tag, but rather, their value is derived from the relatability and impact they bring to the table. 

How do you maintain your thought leadership in your chosen field?

While I’ve certainly written for a number of niches over the years, I’ve never really stuck with a single one. I’ve tended to drift a bit from niche to niche trying to find the best fit for my knowledge and skills. One might say that this has diminished my efforts towards becoming a thought leader in any one field. I have plenty of words to show for my efforts, but when being a thought leader, the actual writing is only half of it.

The ironic thing about thought leadership is that it’s actually more about perception than any lack of passion or insight. How does one come to have the superpower of leading thoughts through public perception? It really depends on your target audience. 

What I can tell you is that being a thought leader is that you’re basically trying to sell your insights as a product. I’ve always had trouble with people who charge exorbitant amounts for seminars, but I’m fine with people charging for their time with one-on-one or small group coaching. I feel that knowledge and discussion should be given freely, while the one-on-one attention is what is worthy of being a handsomely paid service. 

Another great irony about thought leadership: giving things away for free isn’t actually the best way to build thought leadership credibility. If you give something away for free, you need to tie it to a product or service you’re offering for a significant chunk of change. 

Am I Capable of Being a Thought Leader?

Each and every one of you reading this right now is thinking about plenty of things. What’s important to you right now is likely relatable to at least a handful of people somewhere on the face of the earth. Thought leadership begins once you are able to convey your thoughts in a meaningful way that brings fresh perspective to others. 

This all-important aspect of credibility isn’t always easy to get, though. Simply writing about and discussing subjects relevant in your area of expertise is only helping to set the foundation. Just watching popular keyword phrases searched online and writing to relevant current trends is helpful to show relevance, but it’s not everything. 

But, the worst possible feeling is to produce tons of well-written and pertinent content, then have no one see it. At first, it’s very common to receive very little interest in anything you do. Still, you simply can’t give up. Now, if you find yourself burning out and needing to regroup, taking a short break is fine. 

The best way to find help is to build your thought leadership in your field is to build your network of like-minded people in your field.It’s important to be in contact with thought leaders in related variety of fields, as well. Oftentimes, what works well in one field can translate to another, even if it doesn’t seem related. By building this network, you can help both yourself and others become the best thought leaders that they can become.

You Have Thoughts That Deserve to Be Heard

Each individual has a special angle to offer the world. Sometimes, you just have to find someone who gives you the right prompt to know what to focus on. Other times, your social network — online and off — may provide the attention and motivation you need to keep your efforts on the right track. Whatever you do, don’t give up; that only makes things worse!

Unfortunately, the age-old mantra, “write it and they will come,” is sadly outdated in our fast-paced world. Yes, you do have to keep writing and sharing. But, you also must ensure that you have a strong network to both share your ideas and help others spread theirs. When you’re feeling stuck, perhaps all you need is a nudge, a prompt, or feedback from your community. Let them be your sounding board, helping you refine your message and stay on course.

The best thing to do invest your time and energy into both cultivating relationships. Then, provide high-quality content and consistent engagement that helps those in your network as well as others that come across it. In the long run, that’s how you best establish thought leadership.

Your unique voice, experiences, and insights are your assets. By sharing value-driven insights, you not only amplify your voice but also contribute to the larger discourse.

~ Amelia Desertsong

Amelia Desertsong is a former content marketing specialist turned essayist and creative nonfiction author. She writes articles on many niche hobbies and obscure curiosities, pretty much whatever tickles her fancy.
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