5 Tips on How to Become a Thought Leader

To grow your firm or practice you need to position yourself as a thought leader. This allows you to stand out from your competition and create sticky relationships that drive revenue. I believe this is especially true in the B2B arena of professional services. It’s a bit of journey to get there thought-leadershipso let’s start with what makes a thought leader.

I believe a thought leader is someone who is a true expert … some who has “been there and done that” and has stood the test of time and market fluctuations. Wikipedia says: “A thought leader is an individual or firm that is recognized as an authority in a specialized field and whose expertise is sought and often rewarded.” But it can’t stop there. A thought leader is also someone who is willing to share that expertise.

Here are a few steps you might take to become a thought leader:

1. Get clear on who your target market is in very specific terms … I’ve heard it said “the riches are in the niches” and I agree. Unless you have an endless marketing budget, decide on very specific niche markets to position yourself within.

2. Once you are clear on the niche, determine what are the challenges that face that market. Presumably these are the challenges (or questions) that you have already addressed in starting or scaling your business.

3. Share freely of your experience in solving those problems or answering those questions. You’ve heard me say it before: be a go-giver! That includes your expertise. Blog, speak, mentor. Get creative about how you can share your expertise.

4. Don’t sell. A thinly veiled infomercial is just that … a self-promoting plug. You’re not kidding anyone.

5. Stay a student (you’ve heard me say this before too). You cannot remain an expert without continually updating your skills. Read, attend workshops and, here’s a really important one, ask your clients what are their current challenges and triumphs. And, LISTEN!

So much of being a thought leader is tied to prior blog themes: Being a Go-Giver, Servant Leadership, Behavior Goals and more.

The reality is: being a thought leader is not a destination, it’s a journey. I hope to see you on the road.

Stay tuned …

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  1. Agree with you Donna. Being a thought leader is a key PR strategy, as you probably know. We promote our clients as thought leaders through speaking ops, authored articles in target journals, seminars and awards, as resources for media covering relevant topics and through social media, i.e., Blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Anyone speaking at a program can also have someone record a piece of advice and post on YouTube for added exposure.

    • Donna Miller Donna Miller says:

      Hey Caryl – thanks for the comment – PR is an extremely effective way to build thought leadership credibility. In fact, I think it’s more effective than print advertising. Just my opinion.

  2. “Share the wealth of your knowledge and it will come back many times over”. Yes, we have heard this bit of wisdom many times but how often do we really follow up and freely share? Maybe not as often as we could and perhaps should.

    1. Leadership is good example; leaders (real leaders) have a following because they have mastered the ability to get people to do what they want done because the followers want to do it. Not because they are told to follow rather they follow because they respect and believe in the leader. IE:
    Many managers find themselves in “charge” of people or projects but are not close to being in “control”. Often times the person that is in control never wears a Manager tag, they simply point out a path, take responsibility and the team plays their role and follows to achieve the stated goals.

    2. Nothing (almost nothing) is more stressful to an organization than CHANGE. Often times the accepted theme is no one in a department or company wants to change therefore we will have total chaos before any benefits are realized because of the change..
    For me, I disagree a bit, change is only seriously challenged and resisted by people when change is imposed. Sometimes there is little or no input requested, rather its just change because that’s the way its going to be..
    Leaders will solicit input, review processes, ask questions and build in those suggestions a part of the new change.
    We tend to make our changed processes work more smoothly when we can visualize the new change processes belong (in part) to us.. not others.

    • Donna Miller Donna Miller says:

      Hi Daniel – You raise some valid points. I think “control” in any situation is a myth. As leaders its our job to guide. I very much agree that change is much more effective and less stressful when the leader gets the entire teams input. This is certainly what I do and has definitely helped to build an amazing culture at C3Workplace. Thanks for taking the time to respond. Wishing you every success!

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