If you are passionate about a subject, and you know enough to be a reference for those looking for information about it, you have the potential to be a thought leader in the field. As a thought leader, you can share the knowledge you have so that others can learn from what you’ve already discovered and continue to build upon that knowledge to work on ideas and solutions. The trick is to let people know what you know. If you want to get your knowledge and expertise out into the world, there are multiple ways to show your thought leadership both on and off-line.
Before you attempt to make your name as a thought leader in any field, you might want to sharpen your writing skills. Many opportunities to show your expertise on a subject come in the form of writing - from blogging, to writing a book, to handing out pamphlets in the street, though you’ll need a lot of charisma to pull that sort of cold sale off. While you can write for blogs that already exist in your field, to make your name synonymous with a subject - to become a thought leader - you’ll need a website of your own. Think about it this way - most people know that the Huffington Post is renowned for its political commentary, but how many of the writers’ names do they know? To ensure that your name gets connected to the topic in which you want to proclaim your thought leadership, you need your own website or blog that features you prominently.
Tell Them Why You’re an Expert
Even if you didn’t study your area of expertise in school, you learned what you know about the topic somewhere. Maybe you worked with a mentor, for a well-known company or served as an intern. Perhaps you had to learn from experience, such as being diagnosed with an illness, losing weight or training for a marathon. Whatever your connection to the industry in which you have expert knowledge, or however you gained the knowledge that you have, make sure people know about it. When they understand where you got your information, they’ll be more likely to acknowledge you as an expert.
Become a Speaker
It may be a difficult thing to do for most people, but if you want to build a reputation as a thought leader, you’re going to have to get your name and face in front of the public. This means speaking publicly at events. Do some searching, and you’re likely to discover a number of conferences and meet-ups pertaining to your topic of expertise, many of which have open application processes for speakers. You’ll be speaking for free at most of them, but they are invaluable when it comes to building a reputation of expertise in your field. Once you have products to sell, such as a book, you can also earn income at each speaking engagement.
If your area of expertise is in an academic, social or artistic field, there’s likely a grant floating out there in the world that pertains to it. Grants provide funding for a specific project, such as conducting a research study, building an organization or writing a book, and you must generally demonstrate some level of expertise and success within a field in order to score one. Since grants are based on merit, building your reputation to a level where you can get one is an excellent way to prove your thought leadership.
Don’t Get Bogged Down
Becoming a thought leader can be financially advantageous. Once you build a reputation, you may gain an audience for books, be able to place ads on your website or get paid to speak at conferences or events. To get to this level, you can’t be bogged down in the details of the daily grind. So, don’t work yourself tired on the simple things. Delegate day-to-day tasks, outsource any services you can (server management, for example) to other companies to free up resources, streamline your HR system with payroll software to help you manage employees, and hire a personal assistant so you can pour all of your energy into making a name for yourself.
It can be easy to want to control every modicum of your operation, but the more you can put into trusted hands, the more time you can devote to developing yourself and growing your business.
Demonstrating thought leadership takes a concerted effort to get your name and expertise out into the world, but putting in the time rewards you with a reputation that can carry you onto success.