These days, there are a lot of people describing themselves as thought leaders. But are there really that many cutting-edge, forward thinking authorities of their industry out there? Or is the term being used just a little too broadly?
Being a thought leader is a powerful thing. But it has also become widely misunderstood. Ask around or search online and you’re bound to get a few different definitions depending on who you talk to.
So, what does it really means to be a thought leader? Here we’ll discuss some of the key attributes to help you recognise (and maybe even become) one.
Thought Leader vs. Industry Expert
Thought leaders are experts in their fields and have the education, experience and knowledge of their industry to back it up. They are a trusted source of information to all in their chosen niche, from those who are just starting out, to their senior executive peers. They are generous with sharing what they know, with the aim of educating and inspiring others to replicate their success.
So, what sets them apart from the multitude of other industry experts out there? An important distinction is that thought leaders are also disrupters. They bring ideas and insight to the table that start new discussions. Their ability to understand their niche completely allows them to see more than most. They consistently stay at the cutting edge, delivering the unexpected on a regular basis – and this is how they have a real and meaningful impact.
An important distinction is that thought leaders are also disrupters. They bring ideas and insight to the table that start new discussions.
Thought Leaders in the Digital World
In the days before the Internet, it was harder to get your message out there. Restricted mostly to industry publications and trade conferences, your audience was generally small. Today, things are vastly different. With the multitude of online platforms available, it’s possible to publish weekly, or even daily which enables you to reach more people, more often.
In this environment, it’s more achievable than ever to become a thought leader yourself. If you have the expertise, a complete understanding of your niche and plenty of innovative ideas, you can share via your own blog, guest articles and social media. You won’t become a thought leader overnight, in fact, it can often take years. But if you hit the right nerve and resonate with your audience, the hard work pays off.
So… When Are You Really a Thought Leader?
You’ve put in loads of effort and built yourself a large and captive audience. You’re getting plenty of engagement and your ideas are having an impact. Surely you can call yourself a thought leader now?
At this point (or even before), plenty of people do. But the truth is, the real thought leaders are not self-proclaimed. They don’t use the title when meeting new people or list it on their CV or LinkedIn profile. They leave it to others to do the talking for them. Think about it – you don’t generally hear sporting professionals calling themselves legends. It’s not something they decide for themselves – their audience or fans are the ones who make the call. And if they’re deserving of it, it sticks.
Final Word on Being a True Thought Leader
Calling yourself a thought leader may seem like a genius way to market yourself on the surface, but if you call it too early it can backfire in a big way. Even if you’re at the top of your game and feel like you deserve the title, a much better tactic is to focus on your work, ideas and innovation, and let your audience make the call. If you’ve truly earned it, it won’t be long before they do.
If you’re ready to seek out new opportunities, or have an exciting vacancy to fill, we’d love to hear from you. Our team of expert recruiters have the industry knowledge, experience and insight to help you find the perfect fit.
Can we send you an email?
Join more than 5,000 other smart finance professionals by signing up to our newsletter. You'll get a monthly email with new blog posts, job news, views, and insider tips. Don’t miss out on this valuable advice!