You've heard people called a thought leader. But have you ever considered that you might be one?
A thought leader is a subject matter expert who generously shares their unique ideas and their viewpoint in their particular niche. You don't need to have an original concept, but the way you share it is unique and it helps your audience understand because they haven't heard it explained that way before.
As entrepreneurs, we create new things all the time, while often they're updated versions of an older idea.
To simplify it, thought leadership is a Content Marketing strategy, and you can use it to build your business over time. It’s the person behind the brand that matters—people connect with other people, not nameless businesses. Thought leadership includes personal brand building through an ongoing process of educating and building trust with your audience by sharing high quality content. It has to be researched, it has to be understood via a different perspective and it has to be delivered in a high-quality way.
It’s important to understand that no one becomes a thought leader overnight — it takes years of work. Years of building trust, years of educating with no expectation of return. And it's not about promoting yourself, your company or what you sell. You need to focus on providing real valuable information to your audience on topics that they are interested in.
So how can you start creating thought leadership content?
Start by writing. You can begin with a personal journal where you write out your thoughts, your opinion, and your perspective — clarify your ideas and why they matter. The more you write the more concise you will be in your thoughts. And then start sharing. You can write a blog or a guest blog, create a podcast, deliver high value content on your social channels, author a book, write whitepapers, create an op-ed series for a newspaper or magazine or book speaking engagements. The key is to regularly be published and start building a following.
A word of advice. Don’t start this process until all your brand development is solidly in place. You must first to have clarity on what’s important to you and how you think or speak a little differently from others in your industry.
Can you clearly articulate who you are, why you do what you do, who you serve and what their needs (and pain points) are? That’s when you become a sought after, and respected expert in your field because you are talking very specifically to the right people at the right time. They will connect with you and your message when you are super clear about who you’re talking to.
A mindset shift is necessary, too. If you want to be a thought leader, you’ll give away a lot of your knowledge for free. We often want to protect our ideas and keep them to ourselves to prevent someone else from ‘stealing’ them, but the truth is no one can ‘steal’ your perspective – the more it’s shared, the bigger it grows.
So instead of worrying about someone stealing your ideas, focus on building your personal brand and sharing your unique perspective in your area of expertise. No matter how much you give away people will naturally assume you know more and will want to keep going deeper with you.
It’s the law of reciprocity in action: when someone does something genuinely nice for us, we have a psychological urge to do something nice in return. When you give away high-quality, valuable information, you prove to your followers that you are a person of high value and they will respond by helping you build and grow—and of course buy from you when you can offer something that they want. To put it in marketing terms, there is always a return on investment when you give away your knowledge.
And stop worrying about someone stealing your ideas. It’s like your favourite recipe — even if you give it away, the dish will never taste the same when made by someone else. The only real secret ingredient is you!
At the end of the day, it is who you are that really makes the difference. When you are the leader you are setting the culture. Being a thought leader sets you up as the authority in your space and strengthens the value of your expertise. And if we work our whole lives towards gathering expertise in a certain area, then why not share it?
Want to hear more of our thoughts? Check out our latest podcast — The Value of Thought Leadership — now available on your favourite podcast platform!