The title of “Thought Leader” is not just reserved for CEOs and business owners, although they certainly are. Thought leaders are experts in their field who immerse themselves in their practice and constantly seek and incorporate new information. According to Joel Kurtzman, the former editor-in-chief of Strategy+Business magazine who is credited with coining the term, a thought leader “is recognized by peers, customers and industry experts as someone who deeply understands the business they are in, the needs of their customers and the broader marketplace in which they operate.”
You may be thinking that “thought leadership” is just another buzzword used by people in order to inflate their sense of importance. While this may be true for some, a true thought leader provides the public with original and thought-provoking ideas that bring new insights to their industry and resonate into something greater. Psychologists say that one must go through about 100 ideas before coming up with something original. To come up with something usable is even more. A true thought leader believes in endless possibilities and is on a quest to find them.
So how do you promote thought leadership? By leading by example.
Here are 3 ways to promote thought leadership within your company and the public:
1. Connect With Others in Your Field
Going to events, being active on social media, and participating in interviews are all excellent ways to connect with others. Creative energy becomes a literal brainstorm when experts get together and collaborate. But thought leadership is a two way street. As an established thought leader, you need to talk with those who are not yet experts and teach them how to get there. You may even be surprised. Even someone who is just starting out may have an incredible idea and you will be the one to help them make it a reality.
2. Listen to Your Target Audience
While some inventions are simple novelties (you don’t really need that drinking bird that’s on your desk), most things are invented to fulfil a need. Take PopSockets for example. Not only do they make holding your smartphone easier to hold and less likely to break that expensive screen, they also allow you to mount your phone to be used as a tool (GPS, music player, how not to burn the kitchen down during Thanksgiving, etc.). By actively listening to your target audience, they will tell you their needs and what’s currently trending in various markets. You then have the power to expand or create a product to fulfil those desires.
3. Stay Humble and Don’t Lose Your Curiosity
After spending your entire life in a field, it is easy to believe you know all there is to know to continue your road to successful innovation and that you’ve “seen it all.” A thought leader embraces that the world is constantly changing, and while we do not have to set sail to follow every change, it is important to embrace those changes and strategically decide which to pursue. In the world of marketing, this could mean deciding if a new trend will become a quickly faded fad, or if it’s here to stay. Furthermore, while you may have seen a lot, there’s always more to see and another perspective from which to observe. Once again, a thought leader believes in endless possibilities.
Perhaps the most important trait of a thought leader is passion. When you exhibit excitement and genuine interest, people tend to gravitate towards that energy and want to emulate that feeling in their own careers. Being a thought leader means encouraging other people to become thought leaders, and the best way to encourage people is to invite them into your journey.