According to Wikipedia, thought leadership is just a fancy phrase for “an individual or firm that is recognized as an authority in a specialized field and whose expertise is sought and often rewarded” (Thought Leader, n.d.).
You may be asking; how does this word apply to my life? Why is it important to be seen as this type of individual? What do I gain from it? How does it enhance my life? These are all great questions that many of us ask ourselves. In answer to these questions, I believe Robert Kiyosaki said it best when he stated,
“You have something special inside of you. Something you know. Something you can do. Something you can teach. You are already an expert. We all have this something inside of us and, if we use it right, we can change the world – and become rich in the process” (Brunson, 2017).
After reading this I hope you are inspired to reflect on your own life. What is it that you are born to do? What is that special something that has the potential to change the world? In order to help you discover more about yourself please keep reading the steps outlined below. I walk you through discovery in turn leading you to make some adjustments. Be prepared to do some soul-searching while you process the 3 phases to becoming a thought leader that I learned through the Lynda.com course called “Thought Leadership” by Dave Crenshaw.
Phase 1 – Prepare to Build Authority
First things first, you need to figure out what it is you are an expert in and translate that to becoming an authority in that area. You’ll probably want to get a pen and piece of paper right now because I am going to ask you to write down some identifying information. Identify three talents you have and write them down. Think of things you love to do, are gifted in and have developed skills on. Next to each one, categorize it based on 1) if you are sought out for advice on that talent and 2) if you would like to be sought out. Next, write down two most valuable activities (MVA) that you are able to perform. These are tasks that if you had to hire someone else to do them, it would cost the most money for them to do them as well as you do. Again, categorize them by 1) if you are sought out for advice on this activity and 2) if you would like to be sought out. Match-up between talents and MVAs as well as likes and advice for each talent and activity. If you have checkmarks across you have discovered an area where you could be an authority. Let me show you an example of how this works. My talents are Teaching, Learning and Engagement. My Most Valuable Activities are teaching and engaging with people. This is how it looks on a chart.
|Engaging with Others|
|My Most Valuable Activities||Advice||Like|
As you can see, the area that is most likely where I am an expert is in teaching. This is telling as I am a licensed Alberta teacher. Obviously, it’s a natural fit for me. There are two more statements you should complete to finish this process: 1) Within the framework of the company I work for, I want to be known as an authority on… 2) Within the public, I want to be known as an authority on… You fill in the blank. Hopefully, now you’ve narrowed down what topic/area you want to be known as an authority on. Next, you’ll want to spend ample time building and developing that authority. Scheduling time to get better in the area you’ve identified is the only way to achieve this. You’ll need to budget weekly time to devote to sharing your knowledge with others. In turn, this will help you learn and develop too. One last area to build yourself as an authority is to find a mentor. I cannot stress how important this is. You’ll need someone who will teach you what you don’t know. You can emulate what they do to create your own success. There are three areas to find the right mentor who you can communicate with. The first area is in your company. “I might approach them and try to develop a professional relationship, getting their permission to ask questions regularly so that I can learn from them” (Crenshaw, n.d.). The second area to find a mentor in is outside the company but still within your network. Getting a referral from a mutual friend is powerful. The third way to get a mentor is through long-distance. This is achieved through using any curriculum for learning that this expert may offer. Nowadays it is possible to connect with them online through the social networks. You could also follow their blogs and podcasts, written books or seminars. Consistently spend time learning from other experts and you will rise to be a master yourself.
Phase 2 – Build Authority Within Your Company
If you are work within a company and cannot see how you could establish yourself as an authority then this section is for you. It is all written within the context of working for someone else. The first part of this phase is to become a systems expert. “Many CEOs and business owners have told me through the years that one of the things that makes an employee invaluable is that they know a system so well that they can teach it to others” (Crenshaw, 2012). Teaching others about the systems in your company does not make you replaceable it makes you the go-to expert. The opposite of being replaced happens. People come to you for your expert advice. One important point is to be sure to get your company’s buy-in. Always follow your company’s guidelines. Though it may take time to be recognized as an authority in this space, it will be worth it when you finally become a systems expert. One of the few keys to establishing yourself as an authority is to establish yourself as a systems expert. To do this you’ll need to create a system first. Something that will be used within your company’s environment. “The idea is to get as much information as you can about a system onto a single page” (Crenshaw, 2012). Essentially it is just an outline. You are the expert that others will come to for the details of this system. Can you see that when you can share your knowledge with others in this way you are creating a demand for your expertise? As you create an expert system you’ll need to establish what the system will provide. To do this answer, “This system will…” (Crenshaw, 2012). The next thing to determine is the why section of your system. This is where you tell others the reason to use your system. Why does it benefit them? Following this, you’ll want to list who should follow your system. It could be the sales manager or the assembly line worker. The next thing the system should list is the when section. You’ll want to measure the timing or length that the system should be followed. The how much section is next. This is the quantifiable measures like results or statistics. The last section of the system to point out is the with section. What resources go along with the system? What does the system require? After you’ve filled out the what side of your system it’s time to move on to the how-to side of the system. This is where we list all the system’s steps. Again, it’s just an outline of general steps that someone follows to complete the system. This is a training tool to teach others how to use the system. This how-to side of the system unfolds step by step. Once you’ve completely mapped out your system you’ll want to get it reviewed and approved by your manager at the top of your organization. This is to ensure its written in a way that reflects the company’s voice. Now the system you’ve created is ready to be used by other people in your company.
Phase 3 – Build Authority in the Public
When it comes to building your reputation in the public arena it’s best to envision a ladder. As you climb up you are moving one step at a time towards being an authority. This isn’t a quick process. It probably won’t happen overnight but keep climbing and it will happen. Stay consistent and tenacious in growing and moving up. Some ideas of what is on each rung are outlined next. You could follow this exact model and be well on your way to becoming an authority. These ideas are taken from the course mentioned above. Rung 1 – Write helpful reviews of products/services Rung 2 – Participate in others’ community sites and blogs Rung 3 – Create a blog or podcast Rung 4 – Earn a degree or certification Rung 5 – Build a specialized social network Rung 6 – Create and consistently send a newsletter Rung 7 – Build an “offline” networking group Rung 8 – Be a guest expert on other blogs and networks Rung 9 – Self-publish a book or video course Rung 10 – Be a local talk and news radio guest Rung 11 – Have a book or course published and distributed Rung 12 – Be a columnist for a publication Rung 13 – Obtain national or international press coverage (Crenshaw, 2012) There are a few rungs on the ladder that I want to highlight. One of the major sections of rungs on the ladder have to do with creating your own library. This is not a catalogue of books you read. This is a collection of your own articles that you have written. Don’t worry if you feel like you can’t write. We all start somewhere. Begin with the first article and keep in mind, writing is a muscle. The more you work it the stronger it gets. If you want a little help in this area, I have an earlier blog that I wrote that addresses the topic of Creative Writing. Read it to get some extra guidance. Another way to get around having to sit down and write is to use voice typing in Google Docs. This tool will type what you say. You will have to edit of course but it’s a great way to get over the hurdle of starting a written project. Once you’ve written a few articles you are well on your way to compiling a book where you package them all together. For myself, I have been publishing blogs that have everything to do with social media management. I plan on taking these 10+ blogs and turning them into more official articles and possibly even an eBook. Another area on the ladder I want to point out is building an online network. Nowadays this is easy to do with all the social media channels there are. The best way to start is to go into other established communities and engage with the people there. Always offer value in what you say and you’ll start to find people coming to you to connect and get advice. I have seen this to be true in my life. I am a member of a few key Facebook groups and Instagram groups that are all about business. I always offer value when I can and I am absolutely ALWAYS authentic. If I don’t have something to add, I do not add it. The results?? I am finding others coming to me for advice and requesting to be Facebook friends. They are even asking to get involved in the communities I’ve created. Now I have others following me and are starting to see me as an expert to a degree. I am still building this reputation. The next area to build your reputation as an authority is in the area of networking groups and associations. This is in the offline space. It’s even better if you can create and lead these groups. It’s best if you build these in your local area. Do not feel like you have to start large. Even if you can start with 3-4 people you have a core group. You can take these groups and connect them to the online space where you use telephone conference or webinars. You can be the president and even if someone else takes over that role later, you will always be the founder. Maybe these groups already exist in your space. Don’t let that stop you; create a more targeted focus and start. There is no shortage of success. In case starting a group is not something you are ready to commit to you could approach existing ones and become part of the leadership there by volunteering on a regular basis. Help them grow and you will grow too. One last area that I want to point out is in the area of gaining personal publicity. This is a great way to gain recognition and a reputation as an authority and decision-maker in your area of expertise. You may achieve this by approaching other experts in your industry and asking them if you can contribute a blog to their platform or be a guest on their podcast. You’ll need to nurture the relationships you have with other industry leaders and always give value. It just may lead to sharing your viewpoint and expertise with a larger audience. This is what it takes to be considered an authority.
Brunson, R. (2017). Expert Secrets. New York: Morgan James Publishing. Crenshaw, D. (2012). Thought Leadership. Retrieved from Lynda.com: https://www.lynda.com/Business-Skills-tutorials/Selecting-mentor/88535/105344-4.html?autoplay=true Thought Leader. (n.d.). Retrieved from wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thought_leader