The industry is full of buzzwords and when you hear the term thought leader, you may want to brush it off as just another corporate concept.

Simplistically, a thought leader is nothing more than an industry leader. It is the go-to person in a given field. Thought leaders are trusted. Their words offer guidance which is steeped in influential knowledge and awareness.

Thought leaders are reliable sources who inspire others with their innovative approach. They have earned their reputation with their distinctive ability to contribute to the meaningful dialogues happening today. However, what sets them apart is being able to speculate on what is also going to happen tomorrow.

A thought leader earns their status by the credentials they have gained through years of experience coupled with their education and industry-specific insight. A true thought leader won’t always interject their idea on every issue that arises but will reserve their discussions for a particular industry.

Why Thought Leadership is Important

While the concept might not be original, it has taken on a new level of importance in recent years. Social media has helped to spring forth new leaders in the business world in the form of entrepreneurs, technology gurus, influential writers, bloggers, and pundits.

Today’s thought leaders are inspirational, cutting-edge, and innovative. They lead the way instead of lag. Society looks to thought leaders for revolutionary perspectives instead of tired, regurgitated ideas.

If you are looking to increase your strategic leadership visibility, becoming a thought leader offers a pathway to that goal.

How to Become a Thought Leader

Anyone can be a thought leader. There is no set background – all industries, ages, genders, and ethnicities are needed because diversity of thought is highly coveted. Thought leadership generally happens over time as you grow your expertise, niche knowledge, credibility, and authenticity. Yet, these characteristics help to elevate you to thought leader standing.

Simply having a blog does not bestow upon you a thought leader title. Thought leadership goes beyond writing and networking.  While that may have been where you shaped your ideas and content, your status elevates as your voice gains traction.

Thought leaders have these key features:  

Thought Leaders Are Intentional About Their Brand

A thought leader is comfortable in their own skin. They know who they are and they have built a brand as a way to differentiate their work from the others in their industry. They are intensely intentional about their brand, their credentials, and their core values. They know their brand frames the message they transit to the world.  Their brand adds credibility to their thought leadership role.

Thought Leaders Embrace Controversy

A thought leader does not shy away from controversy or change, they embrace it. They incessantly transform, evolve, reflect on, and clarify their positions and ideas for the advancement of society and business.

Thought Leaders Disrupt Thinking

Thought leaders dissect existing research, information, and then offer vision and possibilities beyond societal trends. They introduce new ideas that get the industry fired up. Remember, not everyone is going to go along with you.  Be prepared for backlash but remain strong (yet open to opinions) on your stance.

Thought Leaders Know Why Their Work is Important

Thought leaders know why their work adds value and how that value creates an impact on a larger scale. A bold vision is not always enough to develop a level of conviction and understanding that can move mountains.

Thought Leaders Want to Change the World and Inspire Others to Join

As your influence and platform grows, so will your opportunities to create a significant impact on a larger scale. A thought leader believes so deeply in their principles that it generates and magnifies enthusiasm. Others become motivated to join in with this meaningful change.

Ideas that lie dormant in your own mind cannot influence the world. Perhaps it is time to step into a new leadership role. While thought leadership requires research to stay on top of your game, society craves ideas and vision and will be ready to listen. Are you ready to be a thought leader?

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Jan Johnston Osburn is a Certified Career Coach and Organizational Consultant. Her organizational specialties are Talent Acquisition, Training, and Leadership Development. She holds a Master’s degree from the University of Buckingham, UK, and has certifications in Executive Coaching and Advanced Social Media. Her website is www.YourBestLifeTodayCoaching.Com .