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5 Actionable Steps To Become A Thought Leader

A thought leader is someone who often creates something before people realize it’s needed.

“A thought leader is someone who creates something before people realize that they need it. The best example, of course, is Steve Jobs. Richard Branson too.”

– Guy Kawasaki, Thought Leader, And Best Selling Author of the MacinTosh Way

To become a thought leader, you’ll need to be a proactive problem solver, who’se influence impacts others.

Odds are you’ve probaably encountered thought leadership and didn’t even know it. Have you ever watched a social media video that made you want to purchase something or listened to an audiobook that caused you to adapt your way of thinking?

The person behind the camera or the book influenced your decision to make a purchase or change your habits. Thought leaders are a prevalent part of our society, and their power of persuasion isn’t going away anytime soon. So let’s take a deeper look at thought leadership practices.

What Is Thought Leadership? Why Is It Important?

Thought leadership refers to the unique value someone provides to a particular subject, a specific field or industry. Individuals who produce thought leadership content are often known for their high-quality ideas and opinions.

As business corporate executives, entrepreneurs, and sometimes influencers, these individuals often have a plethora of knowledge based on years of experience and data-based findings.

Thought leadership is important because it’s brings value to the audience. This value can be:













Thought leadership takes commitment, dedication, practice, and study. Think of the hours Jeff Bezos put in to create Amazon and the time Neil Patel spent studying an living in marketing before he wrote his first book. Someone doesn’t just wake up one day and decide to share a unique offering with the world. Leaders often spend a good amount of time focsusing on their thought leadership strategy.

What Is An Example of Thought Leadership?

example of thought leadership Hubspot
Articles and websites are a consistent way companies can portray their knowledge to their target audience; and, there’s no better B2B example of this than Hubspot.

Hubspot posts original research pieces relevant to its target market, while also posting a variety of free e-books, guides, and courses available for anyone to see.

Someone could go on Hubspot’s website and find out how to build a customer persona or use one of their marketing plan templates to build a company strategy.

Hubspot positions themself as an authority figure in the marketing world by using content written by experts, and providing unique offerings to their target market. They are a fantastic example of how a B2B company can be thought leader.

What Is A Thought Leader?

Thought leaders are industry experts, influencers, and individuals whose unique perspectives provide guidance and innovative solutions for the world around them. Think Steve Jobs and Apple, Walt Disney and cartoons, and a plethora of other individuals that paved the path for future generations.

Regardless of what the thought leader does, it’s how the individual provides answers to the world’s biggest questions that matter most.

The History of Thought Leadership

While the term thought leader is becoming more prevalent in current-day lingo, it was actually established over two decades in an article by author Joel Kurtzman. The article is about an interview with the most influential management thinker of his time, Charles Handy. In the interview between Charles and Joel, Charles makes a bold statement saying soon, corporate-like structures will disappear, and virtual businesses will replace them. This statement was ahead of its time when you consider the fact that this interview happened in 1995. No wonder Kurtzman coined the phrase thought leader for Charles Handy.
thought leaders Joel Kurzman
After this interview article, Kurtzman wrote a book titled Thought Leaders, where he shares a series of interviews and profiles from various 20th-century industry experts. While the thought leaders in the book are from different backgrounds, they all bring their discussions under one common theme: being prepared for the future today.

Why Do Thought Leaders Matter?

Thought leaders are important because they provide insightful value to the world around them. They collect information from the past, analyze the present, and pave the future to provide their audience with an alternative perspective.

These individuals are subject matter experts in b2b marketing, social media, technology, entertainment, exercise, and various other important industries and topics. They are innovative and passionate agents of change who have a positive reputation for helping others.

Previous thought leaders include individuals like Harriet Tubman, Aristotle, and Martin Luther King Jr., as these individuals challenged the narrative of society and paved the path for change. Some modern-day thought leaders are content marketing mastermind Seth Godin, Harvard research strategist Theresa M. Amiable, and innovator of tech Elon Musk.

Examples of Thought Leaders

Thought leader example harriet tubman
thought leader example aristotle
thought leader example martin luther king jr
thought leader example elon musk
thought leader example seth godin
thought leader example theresa m amiable

How To Become A Thought Leader

So now that you know a little about what a thought leader is and why they are important, you might be wondering how you can establish yourself as one. Becoming a thought leader is more than selling a product, creating an email newsletter, or ramping up your LinkedIn profile. True expertise takes time and discipline; but, with the right tools, processes, and perspective, you can speed up your path to success:

1. Discover Your Why

Before you dive down a path of thought leadership ideation, it’s important to know why you’re doing this in the first place. For starters, you can ask yourself what you’re passionate about. Then, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do you daydream about?
  • What articles and topics do you spend hours reading?
  • What do you find yourself repeatedly wanting to try but think it’s too late to get started, or you’re ill-equipped to do it?
  • What do people ask you for advice on?
  • What do you have expeirence in?

Once you’ve asked yourself these questions, write down your answers and brainstorm topics. This exercise should give you a list of viable options you can use to start your thought leader journey. From there, narrow down your list of passions to a well-defined area.

If you’re still struggling, visit your book collection, bank statements, and favorite tv shows. Do you notice any common themes among them? You can even layer your findings against career tests like the MAPP to further narrow your list of passions against your skillset.

2. Learn About Your Industry

Now that you kow what you’re passionate about, it’s that much easier to become a thought leader by combining your dreams with your skillsets. Industries are constantly shifting and changing, and your experience does as well. Therefore, it’s imperative that you identify new avenues to gain industry knowledge.

When you combine your existing knowledge, passions, skills and new comprehension, you become well-rounded in your field. The more you know, the easier it is to think outside of the box and offer unique opinions to other indiviiuals in your sector.

3. Identify Your Niche Market

Knowledge is nothing if it isn’t shared with others. Identifying your target audience is the key to building your personal brand. To determine who these people are, ask yourself this question. What is my target audience’s motive to learn from me?

What is my targret audience’s motive to learn from me?

Research target audiences within your industry to understand their challenges and how you can help solve them. Understanding their reading, watching, and purchasing behavior will set you up for success. Consider leveraging free tools to build your customer persona. A persona gives you insight into how you can provide value for your niche market.

4. Establish Your Expertise

Your next step in becoming an industry guru is becoming an educated expert. If you’ve been passionate about this topic for a while, you might already know a lot about it. Regardless, you must dedicate time to learning even more about your passion. Establish your expertise by reading articles, taking courses, and purchasing books in your focus area.

Get granular with your research. Find other experts in your field and learn how they gain knowledge. Determine how much they make, how they got started, what skills they have. You can even reach out to individuals on Linkedin. Offer to interview them so you can learn about their path to success. This knowledge will help you establish yourself as a thought leader and determine what makes you different from the competition.

5. Create Impactful Thought Leadership Content

According to a survey of over 1,200 U.S. businesses, only 18% of respondents say the thought leadership content they consume is excellent or good. That means a shocking 92% of thought leader content isn’t hitting the mark.

While this number probably comes as a staggering shock to most experts, it’s good news for you. If you focus on the type of content you produce, you’ll set yourself apart from the competition. Here are some questions you can ask yourself before creating a new piece of content:

  • What emotion do you want your audience to feel when the content is released?
  • How can it solve a problem your audience is currently facing?
  • What level of authenticity are you creating in your content?
  • What research and sources are you using to back up your statements?

Once you ask yourself these questions, set a goal to be clear and concise with your audience. Don’t focus on multiple industries and fields. Hone in on one area of expertise so you can get on your audience’s level.

6. Establish Credibility

So you know your passion. You have your target market in mind, you’re educated, and you have impactful content. Now what? Establishing credibility is often seen as the hardest part of becoming a thought leader. When there are thousands of experts out there, how do you make yourself known?

One thing we’ve found that helps thought leaders establish themselves and gain momentum in their field is a TEDx Talk. TED Talks are a powerful way to develop yourself and leverage your expert credibility. They are so impactful that the top 25 TED talks have reached over 786 million people on TED’s website alone.

You might be reading this and speculating how you can land such a prominent gig. The good news is, it isn’t as hard as it sounds. We’ve helped over 400 individuals land a Tedx Talk to leverage their power of expertise.

Interested In Giving A Ted Talk?

Sign Up for our FREE Webinar Hosted by TEDx Speaker Taylor Conroy

Creating the Next Generation of Experts

From Martin Luther King Jr. to Elon Musk, thought leaders shape the very fabric of our society. They are educators, content creators, artists, politicians, and other informed experts in their field. Whether it’s a product or a motivational series, thought leaders provide insightful answers to the world’s biggest questions; and, you can too.

When you discover your passion, educate yourself, and define your market niche, you set yourself up for success. Brands trust thought leaders to develop their strategies and solutions, while people trust them to make educated decisions.

Remember to consider the power focused and impactful content has in keeping your audience engaged and informed. Leverage a TEDx talk to credit your expertise and build your brand. When you leverage your uniqueness against your credible authority on relevant topics, you get nothing short of dynamite.


Joelle Cullimore
Marketing Content Manager

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