Thought leadership is the idea that a person or business is a pioneer in thought, an intellectual capable of generating ideas that inspire and influence others. The term can also describe someone who is an expert in their field, who publishes new ideas and leads people and organizations into new eras.
Learn more about thought leadership and what it means to inspire others with ideas toward new heights in your business or field.
What Is Thought Leadership?
A person or business who is described as a thought leader is one who knows their industry inside and out. They understand all of the influences, technology, market conditions, and people within their field. Thought leaders also understand their audience—who they are providing products and services for.
Thought leaders are established within their industry as someone others turn to for ideas and insights.
These leaders recognize trends, offer insights, communicate ideas, and inspire and influence others through their communications. Thought leaders are perceived as trusted resources for information, not just among their clients and customers, but from their colleagues and peers.
How Does Thought Leadership Work?
Thought leadership is about how you inspire and influence your market, peers, coworkers, and industry. Thought leaders build their credibility, authority, influence, and reach through the content they create and share with others.
For small business owners, the topic of industry leadership may seem irrelevant because they are worried about making it to the next quarter or through an upcoming expansion. However, many innovations come from small businesses. Innovation requires thought leadership because new ideas need to be communicated, researched, and, most importantly, sold.
To be a thought leader, your ideas must have value for your audience and be communicated in a way that will inspire them.
Selling an idea is not necessarily issuing a thought to someone in exchange for money; it is emphasizing the features and benefits of the idea over current offerings and thus convincing others that the concept is innovative and worth implementing.
Thought leadership isn’t about leading employees but instead is about teaching in your industry. To lead the industry into new territory, you must be viewed as a visionary because you have initiated conversations, contributed ideas, and created value within the industry before.
Becoming a thought leader takes time. Many leaders begin by researching and communicating with customers or clients, then developing their thoughts and publishing them in reputable industry resources. Some steps you could take toward thought leadership are:
- Understand what customers and clients want to know about your business: Make a list of all the possible questions your target market asks related to your products or services.
- Develop answers to each of the questions: Start with the most common or pressing questions and develop responses. Infuse your writing with personal anecdotes, knowledge, and insights.
- Deliver your answers across various platforms: It’s unrealistic to be everywhere all the time, and yet, you need to deliver content regularly in a variety of places.
- Repurpose content: When possible, save yourself some time. Instead of delivering different content across all platforms, find a way to repurpose it. For example, turn a blog post into a YouTube video.
- Be generous with other leaders’ content: Thought leaders are viewed as the go-to people for information, but they don’t necessarily have to be the source of information. Share the content you find most fulfilling, giving credit where credit is due.
- Encourage engagement: Thought leaders are approachable and responsive. They’re at the top of the industry because they’re listening and responding to the market.
- Above all, deliver value: Give the market what it’s asking for in a way that provides benefit.
It can be a lot of work to deliver the amount of content needed to be considered a thought leader. However, done well, you can become a top resource for consumers, the media, and peers in your industry.
- Thought leadership is the ability to lead an industry with innovative ideas that create value for that industry.
- Thought leaders are trustworthy resources because they provide valuable, insightful information and resources that the market is craving.
- Thought leaders can turn well-informed ideas into content the industry wants.
- Anyone can become a thought leader by taking the time to research, create, and publish new ideas in order to build a network.