In the early 1990s, the phrase, “thought leader,” took off in business culture.
It showed up in books, journals, you name it.
These days, it seems everyone from executives to aspiring authors aim to be one.
Chances are someone you advise or work with will argue about the importance of “thought leadership” and solicit your advice on how they can do it.
Here’s what you can do. Ask them to complete this sentence:
I am my industry’s go-to for…”
If what they do is community-specific, rather than industry-specific — maybe they run a local ministry, accounting firm or therapy service — replace “industry” with “community.”
I am my community’s go-to for…”
Very few can finish either of these sentences. Should someone claim to be an industry or community leader, ask them to Google the phrase they used to complete the sentence.
Does their name and/or digital properties appear in the top search results? And what about social media? Are they in demand from people seeking advice on that phrase?
I hope two ideas are emerging:
- Being a thought leader means being THE go-to for something specific — a topic or task.
- A person’s reputation as a go-to for something begins at a local level, typically inside company or small community, then grows out from there.
And that’s where you can really help those you serve.
Help them start small and local. Become a go-to for something specific — an in-demand topic or task — inside their company or a small community.
Then see if word spreads and establishes them as an industry or community go-to over time.
If you want to go deeper:
- Fast Company’s Golden Rules For Creating Thought Leadership
- Michael Brenner’s 4 Questions to Ask When Thinking of Thought Leadership
Image by Atos on Flickr.