Are you the go-to person for ideas and innovation? Are you the expert authority in your niche? Do coworkers and clients follow your ideas and directions?
Becoming a thought leader can mean the difference between being successful and being irrelevant in your area of specialization – from technology to healthcare, to social services – each field has their own thought leaders. And you can be a leader in your unique niche.
When you’re a thought leader people want to connect with you; you'll be an essential part of meetings and conferences, social media will storm around your ideas, and ultimately you’ll get more business too.
To become more successful and influential, you've got to be someone who adds value, someone who has something worth listening to, and someone who makes a difference – a thought leader.
Here’s a secret – anyone can be a thought leader.
No, not one single person is an expert in everything, but you can be a leader your unique niche. The voice of authority and influence. The one others follow. A thought leader.
Through working with entrepreneurs and leaders from all around the world, I found that these five steps can enable the thought leader inside you to show up and stand up. You will become a voice of influence, and make a difference for yourself, your business, and the people around you.
1. Stand for Something
“ Stand and you will be seen, stand for something and you will be recognized and remembered.”
What’s your purpose?
What values did you build your life on?
What do you care about the most and what are you passionate about?
What makes you tick and what makes your world turn?
Stand for that. Talk about it. Ask for it and demand it. Be sure to share it with others, and teach them how to have it.
2. Stand with Others
“United we stand, divided we fall” ~ Unknown
Whatever it is that you stand for, there are others who stand for it too. Find them, connect with them, share with them, learn from them, and partner with them. When you stand with others you become stronger, your ideas become more powerful, and influential. Find others through social and professional networks such as community events professional activities, or charitable work. Engage, share, learn, and grow.
Start conversations, and get curious about other people and ask what they’re doing, tell them about projects you’re working on. Stay connected and build relationships to explore possibilities of partnership and collaboration. Learn and grow together.
3. Stand in the Shoes of Another:
“Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes ” ~ Famous Proverb
Of course, you believe in what you stand for, you’re committed to it and passionate about it. Still, while you may believe you’re right and the world must hear your views, what makes a thought leader is acceptance and open-mindedness.
Acceptance is to acknowledge the difference between what you stand for and what others believe, and yet deal with them as human beings that have the right to express their mind and to stand for what they believe.
Open-Mindedness is to be open to being wrong and taking risks. If someone challenges your point of view, an open mind shows curiosity, and engages in a dialogue rather than dismissing them just because he or she disagrees.
4. Stand on the Shoulders of Giants
"If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” ~ Isaac Newton
Many people have walked ahead of you on the path you’re now on; they may be well-known thought leaders that you look up to and respect. It is time for you to build on what they have created, to complete the journey and to go beyond.
You can do this by learning from them, and then go where they haven’t. It’s not about competing with them; this is an acknowledgement of what they have accomplished, and enhancing their ideas.
This is a journey you don't travel alone, you go in the company of giants, and you act in partnership with them. You will learn through every step of the way on this journey of a lifetime. Be sure to share their knowledge, their insight, and their stories.
Connect with them and offer to help and open up avenues of collaboration. Be curious, and be prepared to learn.
Remember to share any related projects that you're working on, as well as your vision and goals. And invite your heroes to collaborate. Some won’t work with you, but a few will get excited and jump right in.
5. Stand for Everyone:
“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” ~ Michael Jordan
By standing for everyone you can inspire anyone. Everyday people give up on themselves and don’t believe they can make a difference. This could be coworkers, colleagues, or even your supervisor. Some call it stress or burn out.
It is your role as a thought leader to stand for them, inspire them, and enable them to see what is possible, and how they can achieve their goals. You can do this by sharing your journey and the journey of others, and how when faced with insurmountable challenges, they still managed to make a dent in the universe, no matter how small. They did it not do it because they are special, they did it by persevering.
If you see others as capable and competent human beings, they will see themselves this way too. By believing in them, even when they do not believe in themselves, they will too. In providing guidance and direction to work through challenges, you will be the ultimate, action-driven thought leader that helps them turn their life around.
Becoming a thought leader is simple, but not easy. In taking action and following these five steps, you will make a difference for yourself, your community, and the world. It will be an extraordinary experience as you follow your passion to the highest peaks.
Becoming a thought leader demands that you go beyond the usual and complacent way of doing things – you need to seek out challenges and rise up to them. Most of all, you need to put yourself out there – as you stand for something, stand with others, stand in another’s shoes, stand on the shoulders of giants, and stand for all.
You may be open to criticism, but your insight and integrity will shine through. As a thought leader.