Many visitors to Serious Insights ask the following question: What are the six steps to becoming a thought leader? There are more than six steps, but for the sake of brevity and to answer the question directly, here are the six fundamental steps every thought leader must traverse.
1. Establish credibility
Thought leaders offer a unique perspective. They own their voice. They write with authenticity and authority. The first step toward thought leadership requires action. Doing something, then documenting journey to that outcome. Thought leaders don’t just establish that they know something, they can tell a good story about how they came to their knowledge.
2. Create visibility
A thought leader’s ideas need to exist across channels: books, blogs, posts, tweets, videos, podcasts, etc. The best thought leaders will target the channels that best represent their known audience, but they won’t neglect the other channels. Thought leadership also relies on serendipity (see Welcome to the Serendipity Economy). Active engagement in new or underserved channels may inspire the formation of an audience where one did not previously exist.
3. Show responsibility and accountability
Thought leaders also need to be thoughtful leaders. Credibility means that what a thought leader says makes sense–the application of a thought leader’s advice leads to others experiencing positive results.
If a thought leader, however, acts irresponsibly or fails to accept accountability for his or her mistakes, their perspective or influence on a domain may come into question. A thought leader always wants the area they focus on the topic, not them.
4. Stir it up
Some thought leaders relish controversy. Even the ones who find a balance between controversy and vision bring about more questions than those who stay within their narrative until they decide to purposefully change it (see Demonstrate Agility below).
5. Curate Accessibility
Find your way of being found. Although some thought leaders enjoy the hermit life, most talk, coach, and advise. Establish your online presence with a website, LinkedIn profile, Facebook page, Instagram account, YouTube channel, etc. Consider an automated scheduling tool so people may proactively reach out and schedule one-on-one time with you.
6. Demonstrate Agility
This is the hardest of the thought leadership “ilitis” as it imparts the idea that the “expert,” in this the thought leader, proves willing to let go of his or her existing framework to either apply it in a new area, or to acquire new knowledge to fit emergent situations.
Thought leaders bring with them a number of traits and skills. But for those seeking to become a recognized thought leader, these six steps describe the foundation. Master an area, own the mastery, communicate well, don’t hide, take responsibility, and keep adjusting as you encounter new ideas, concepts, and cultures.