Why Thought Leadership Matters in the Modern Business Environment

Date: Posted: February 2, 2017

Do you want to make an impact in your chosen market? – The best way to do that in today’s internet-connected world is by becoming a thought leader in your field.

Entrepreneurs are innovators who go against the tradition; following their own methods and creating opportunities for themselves in whatever field they specialize in. Where others see impossibility, thought leaders see a new approach to old problems.

Apple wouldn’t be half the company it is today if Steve Jobs didn’t stubbornly stick to his beliefs.

The advertising industry would not be the dynamic environment people know it to be without George Lois and his out-of-the-box ads.

Internet marketing wouldn’t even be a possibility if it wasn’t for the various industry experts who defined the methods and principles online marketers follow and implement to this day.

Openly sharing what they know about their respected fields makes thought leaders well-respected. Years of experience in the business give more credibility to what they say, making them more authoritative. They also back up what they say with actions that get tangible results.

To some, thought leadership is exclusive to big names in the business. – But this is not quite so.

It’s easy to be considered as a thought leader. Especially if you have enough knowledge and experience to back you up. However, earning people’s confidence in you can be the challenging part.

Yet what is a Thought Leader?

Anyone can be a thought leader for their chosen field, but only a few can earn the right to be considered as one. Understanding your passions will help you determine how you can become a thought leader in your industry.

You can follow three steps to help you out.

  • Your topics of choice – A true thought leader always has strong opinions about a particular topic or subtopic in their profession. Identify a subject matter that you are passionate about. This can help you determine what you should focus on as you hone yourself to be an efficient thought leader.
  • Experience is the best teacher – Thought leaders know so much about their chosen topics because they’ve experienced it first-hand. Personal experience increments your knowledge in ways that studying alone cannot give. It is one of the best ways to gain brand authority.
  • Skills and Specializations –  Think about the skills you’ve already perfected. Is it sales, customer support, or mid-level management? Maybe you have an extensive background in marketing, or a proficient knowledge in online advertising? Learning what skills you excel in will help you determine your thought leadership focus easier.

The ‘DON’Ts’ of Thought Leadership

Thought leadership relies on people making their opinions known to the right audience.

You can be recognized as a subject matter expert when you provide relevant information with the content that you post online. This information, backed up by experience and additional information from reliable sources, can help increase your credibility with clients and prospective partners.

However, many businesses fail to make an impact in their fields because they have the wrong idea about thought leadership. They waste their content by using the wrong approach to gain brand authority.

There are a few common reasons behind this situation. Allow me to discuss a few.

  • Self-praising content – There are companies who tend to fill their content with their accomplishments. Instead of providing their audience with usable information, they bombard them with irrelevant self-promoting material.
  • Sales Pitch-like tone – You are not doing your business any favors by using your blog section as another outlet for marketing your products and services. You will fail to reach out to your audience if all of your posts read like 800-word advertisements for your products. – These type of posts can easily push away potential clients and partners.
  • Going through the wrong channels – Choosing the wrong channel to share your opinion is like talking to a wall; you say many relevant things to it but it will not reply to you at all. Wrong channels could mean anything, like pandering to the wrong audience or using obscure marketing platforms to get your content out there. You will fail in your attempts in thought leadership if you don’t use the right means to communicate with your target market.

Earning the Title

Thought leadership isn’t just a marketing fad; it has become a way of life for many professionals. You can’t just rest on the laurels of your company anymore. You have to prove that you can share your knowledge with the world.

Thought leaders are not lecturers, but conversationalists; they don’t just give out relevant information, but they gain information back. They open discussions that can lead to the betterment of the people in their field. This is how they gain their position as thought leaders.

There are a few things that only successful thought leaders often do which further increases their credibility. Apart from their experiences and accumulated knowledge, they also work on any of the following concepts:

  • Personal branding – It’s hard to tell one expert apart from the other if they talk about the same topics. That is why successful thought leaders build a strong personal brand for themselves to help them stand.
  • Online connectivity – A true subject matter expert knows that opinions are best shared and discussed. Thus, you must know how to create content that can engage your target market. This two-way method of communication increases credibility and enhances a person’s position as a thought leader.
  • Transparency and openness – There is no harm in admitting that you have made a mistake with your earlier posts. Additionally, people in a rational discussion will understand if you are open about your differing opinions. This is the kind of honesty that increases a thought leader’s credibility.
  • Answering the right questions – Sometimes all it takes is to provide helpful answers to everyday questions. Knowing the needs of your target audience can help you determine the information that is relevant to them.

Thought leadership can be for anyone; but not everyone is fit to be a thought leader.

You have to impart relevant knowledge in your industry. It is a two-way job that relies on credibility and communication. When you establish yourself as a reliable resource only then can you consider yourself a successful thought leader.