It used to be that when we thought of sources of wisdom, we pictured a wizened, ancient guru meditating on top of some distant mountain. Nowadays, sources of knowledge are much closer at hand — particularly online, where you can find “thought leaders” in almost every niche imaginable.
Thought leaders carry major sway within their industry thanks to their unique knowledge, insights or skill. Their opinions matter, and their services are always in high demand.
If you’re active online and skilled at what you do, you might be on your way to becoming a legitimate thought leader yourself.
1. You’re Trusted By Your Niche’s Community
It’s one thing to be known by others within your industry. After all, you could be known as someone who’s completely incompetent!
Needless to say, it’s a whole new level of influence to be trusted by your community when it comes to sharing important information, knowledge and news. When people are truly listening to what you have to say (and applying it to their own work), you have the “influencing” part down.
When you’ve reached this level of trust, you’ll often see your social media followers and others reaching out to thank you for your insights, or to share their experiences about how applying your tips helped them. Few things are more rewarding.
2. You’re Never Satisfied With Your Current Level Of Skill
Thought leaders want to be at the forefront of everything their industry has to offer. They don’t want to be left behind when new innovations arrive. They are always chasing new knowledge and experiences.
MORE FOR YOU
This became abundantly clear during a recent email conversation with Will Welch, CEO of CalTech. He explained, “True thought leaders love learning. They don’t keep learning because they’re forced to. They keep improving because they want to enhance their own skills and knowledge so they can continue to provide value to others. This is what drives innovation and can turn an ‘ordinary’ person within a niche into a true thought leader who inspires meaningful change in their industry.” You don’t hit the books, so to speak, out of a drudgery-filled sense of obligation. You love to learn because at the end of the day, you are truly passionate about your niche.
3. You’re Great At Networking (And People Want To Network With You)
Are your LinkedIn and Facebook accounts constantly getting blown up by people wanting to talk business (and by people, I mean real people — not robots)? Are you being invited to speak in classrooms or at local industry-specific events?
These are fairly obvious signs that people want to network with you. And it’s because of your blossoming influential status — and the fact that what you have to say generally adds value to any industry conversation.
Quite often, the people who are reaching out to you are doing so because of your skills, but also because you personally know many others in your niche that matter.
Don’t believe me? Take a look through your contacts and connections lists. You’ll probably find other people who you recognize as thought leaders who are willing to engage with you on a regular basis.
Of course, a lot of this stems from the fact that thought leaders are proactive networkers themselves. Chances are, you’re the kind of person who enjoys reaching out to others in your industry to get their insights or share your opinion. Even if it’s just via email or social media, this outgoing attitude plays a big role in building networking finesse.
4. You’ve Googled Yourself, Right? When You Do, You Show Up
Don’t be afraid to admit it! I’m sure you’ve Googled yourself, because we all have…
Of course, most people don’t see any reference to themselves pop up in Google search results. At best, they’ll find someone else who is somewhat famous who shares their name. At worst, they might find arrest records for someone else with their name!
On the other hand, if you’re a thought leader, you’ll likely see articles you’ve written or even content ABOUT you showing up at the top of the search results.
It’s simple, really. If Google considers you a worthwhile SERP, then that means you probably know your stuff in real life. Google is all about providing value to its users — and if you’re the one providing value, you’re going to rank pretty highly in search results.
5. Taking Advantage Of All Of This ‘Thought Leadership’ Goodness
Once you’ve established yourself as a thought leader in your niche, you have nearly endless ways to take advantage of it. All it requires is a willingness to self-promote.
As a thought leader with an established following, you can verify your social media accounts to give your audience more trust in your comments and build your following even more. You’ll have more opportunities for authorship on relevant industry sites, who want original content from thought leaders like yourself. You can even land speaking engagements at industry events.
All this is just the tip of the iceberg, and it all leads to the same thing: further building your following and credibility. When this happens, your opportunities can snowball like never before, giving you the ability to work with higher-quality (and higher-paying) clients.
Establishing yourself as a thought leader is ultimately a direct path to achieving many of your biggest entrepreneurial goals.