How To Become A Thought Leader: 6 Steps to Elevate Your Impact

Has someone suggested that you become a “thought leader?” Have you considered the benefits of becoming one or how to go about it? A thought leader is someone who becomes known as a subject matter expert and sought out or relied on for their experience sharing. Becoming one can improve your influence in your field and within your company.

I decided to go for it six months ago and have already seen some pretty good results. I was initially inspired to produce thought leadership content because I wanted to increase my company’s visibility on search engines and get more links to our website. But when my first article was published, I felt a huge rush of validation that maybe I do have something worth sharing.

When I shared it on LinkedIn, people started liking the article, commenting how they loved my ideas and planned to implement them. Some even asked follow-up questions. I was helping people—and that lit my fire. Over the course of six months, I published 20 articles in five publications and developed a website to showcase the effort.

Here are the steps I recommend for becoming a thought leader.

1. Find a mentor to coach you.

Find an existing thought leader to coach you step-by-step. The tips you get from someone who has been there and done that are invaluable and can save you a lot of wasted time.

2. Have professional pictures taken.

You need more than a headshot. Many professional photographers offer a business photo package. Style yourself in whatever clothes or settings make sense for your expertise. For example, I had a one-hour session in various settings in and around my office building. The high-quality head, standing, sitting and waist-up shots will serve to support your new higher public profile.

3. Flush out what you know.

Your mentor can help by interviewing you about your specific knowledge realms and identifying material that would be the most powerful to share. For me, this fell into three buckets of topics in which I had strong experience and was reasonably confident talking about.

Ask yourself, what are you known for? What do people count on you for? Where is your knowledge exceptional enough that you feel like you could give a speech on it?

4. Pick a lane.

There are two paths for establishing thought leadership: writing and speaking. Determine which one of these is the most attractive to you. You will likely do both in time, but it’s best to start with the one you are most comfortable with. If you choose the speaker route, find either a strong, connected editor or a TED Talk speaker coach. You might even benefit from a speaker school, such as EO’s Global Speakers Academy. You could also podcast or participate in panels. If you prefer writing, connect with a freelance editor to help grow your skills and gain confidence.

5. When publishing, consider your options.

You don’t always have to go through the front door when submitting articles to outlets to be published. I tried it dozens of times, and all I got was crickets. Many editorial outlets have contributor programs or a paid membership side door. If qualified, you can publish on their platform. EO members can even publish their thought leadership right here on EO Blog.

6. Get over discomfort with promoting your content.

If you want to help as many people as possible with the thought leadership you’ve shared, you’ll need to promote yourself and your content to help them find it. I was raised in the Midwest; avoiding attention is hardwired in me. But you have to promote yourself and your ideas to get people to look or listen. To do this:

  • Leverage social media.

Once you publish, even though the platform you choose may promote your content, it is mostly up to you to amplify your impact. Share your material on your social media channels. LinkedIn offers both significant readership and potential connections. Invest time to grow your following on the platform. You can also join groups and post articles there, which can further expand your reach.

  • Develop a website or blog to showcase your work.

You don’t want the content you create to be one-and-done; you want to build up a repository of your thoughts. Develop a branded blog or website to park your material so it is always available through Google search and links to your site in all subsequent articles. For example, I share my experiences for businesses at Real Simple Business.

  • Source more material.

Assuming you are still active in your field, as you start to publish and enjoy success with your content, it will spark more things to write about. I thought I had only five articles in me, but additional ideas occurred to me as I showered, worked out, drove to work, or talked with colleagues. Look for thoughts or ideas that are novel, question common thinking, and can produce a thought-provoking reaction in an article.

I’ve discovered an amazing payoff beyond my initial link-building motivation. When someone tells you they read or heard your ideas, implemented them, and are way better off because of it, it is an almost indescribable feeling. I believe one’s value in life is dependent on how much value they create for others. It’s true in every kind of relationship. Thought leadership is a great way to use what you’ve learned throughout your career to give value beyond yourself and your company sphere. Why not give it a shot?

Contributed to EO by Barry Raber, a serial entrepreneur, president of Carefree RV Storage, a 22-year member of EO Portland, the founder of Business Property Trust, and an EO Portland Entrepreneur of the Year. He shares his successful business secrets at Real Simple Business. Read his previous blog contributions on Implementing A Collaborative Approach to Strategy3 Steps That Create a Bigger Future for You and Your BusinessHow to Run a Company With Two 10-Minute Weekly Meetings and Post-It Notes5 Questions to Get Your Brand Crystal Clear3 Gratitude Habits For Business Leaders To Motivate Your Team — and Yourself, and Why Bigger Isn’t Always Better: 4 Benefits of Staying Small, and From Startup To Life-Changing Exit – The 4 Secrets Behind Ruby Receptionists’ Amazing Success. Photo by Wood & Smith photography.

This post first appeared on Forbes and is reposted here with the author’s permission.

For more insights and inspiration from today’s leading entrepreneurs, check out EO on Inc. and more articles from the EO blog.

Categories: Entrepreneurial Journey LEADERSHIP Legacy


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