How to be a thought leader in your industry
By Pauline Muindi
| Jan 26th 2022 | 4 min read
Many entrepreneurs and executives strive to be viewed as “thought leaders” in their field and to reap the benefits that come with the status.
However, that goal is elusive for many. It takes plenty of consistent effort to build a personal brand and attain the kind of influence that makes one a thought leader – and many business owners simply don’t know how exactly to do it.
With the right strategies, effort and patience, you can establish yourself as a trustworthy source of insight and information in your industry.
The term ‘thought leader’ may sound like just another corporate buzzword. However, the status and influence that come with the status of ‘thought leader’ can’t be denied. A thought leader is a well-known specialist in a certain firm, industry or community, who offers advice and insight to others. In other words, a thought leader has a good reputation for sharing his or her knowledge and insight with others.
Thought leaders are well-known, respected and well-connected and add significant value to their organisations. They’re charismatic personalities who are admired by both customers and industry employees.
Unfortunately, you can’t go to school to become a thought leader, nor can you complete a one-time programme and receive a certificate or other formal acknowledgment. Instead, you must regularly adopt a variety of personal branding methods, improve your skills set and broaden your professional relationships. On top of that, you must constantly bring fresh ideas and ensure that your name is recognised by people both inside and outside your sector.
Here are a few powerful steps and strategies to help you build the credibility that will turn you into a thought leader over time:
Establish your area of expertise
Thought leaders must be clear and consistent in their viewpoints in their fields of expertise. Creating a niche market or a specific area of expertise can help you create a reputation in your sector and build your brand.
Don’t try to be a thought leader in every aspect of your industry. Instead, concentrate on what you know best and repeat that message. Going in-depth on a few niche areas is more successful than dividing your attention on too many complementary topics.
Learn about your industry
Of course, if you don’t make the effort to learn everything you can about your area of expertise, you won’t have anything meaningful to share. Every industry evolves at a different pace, and as a thought leader, you must remain on top of what’s going on in order to share and remark on trends.
You must constantly educate yourself about your industry as well as the macroeconomic dynamics at play. Being a thought leader necessitates foresight, but it also requires the discipline to research market dynamics for patterns. From what you’ve learned, you can analyse patterns and trends to address real-world challenges in your industry.
At first, it may seem like you don’t have too many insights – but with time, as you commit to learning, you will have plenty of knowledge and experience that will mark you as a thought leader. To get the right information, read books and blogs, watch YouTube videos and research relevant news and analytical articles about your industry.
Network with industry leaders
Being a thought leader doesn’t mean you’ll have all the answers. There’s a lot to be learnt from interacting with the right people in your industry. Reach out to influencers and industry leaders and learn from them.
If you are consistently building your credibility in your chosen niche, some relevant people might even reach out to you. That said, you should be proactive with attending industry events and contributing to relevant online conversations to meet the right people. The larger your network, the more authority you’ll have and the more weight your words will carry.
To build credibility, you must get your insights published very often. Your personal blog is just the beginning. Once you have an engaged audience on your blog and social media platform, you can expand your reach to larger, more authoritative publications.
A good place to start is by writing guest pieces for other industry-related websites. You can also reach out to relevant authoritative publications with insightful opinion pieces. For instance, you can get your articles published in a trade journal or a popular online platform. To maximise your potential as a thought leader, have your work published in a variety of places. The more regularly you do so, the larger your audience will become.
Get awards and flaunt them
There’s nothing like an industry-relevant award to give you credibility. Once you’ve achieved some level of authority in your industry, start looking for relevant awards that might help you attain your goal.
Don’t be afraid to nominate yourself or to persuade others to do so on your behalf. Determine which awards are important in your sector, keep track of deadlines, and make it happen. You could actually win by default if there are fewer nominations than expected.
Don’t forget to flaunt your awards on your social media platforms and blog, and whenever you’re invited for media appearances or speaking engagements.
Make bold claims
Once you are a recognised thought leader in your industry, don’t shy away from making bold claims and bigger predictions about the future of the industry. What if you are wrong? Well, no one expects you to be right all the time. Be sure to back up your claims and predictions with insightful arguments.
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