Thought Leadership

What Makes a Thought Leader?


No matter what business you’re in, becoming a thought leader is one of the best ways to achieve your long-term goals. What makes a thought leader, you ask? Simply put, a thought leader is someone who is widely recognized as a trusted authority in a particular field. Here are a few of the more common traits of thought leaders. 

A Clear Vision for the Future

Thought leaders are people who possess a strong vision of what the world will look like in a few years. They can paint a plausible picture of what could and should happen and how that will occur. You don’t have to be right 100% of the time to establish a reputation. 

Innovative Insights

Anyone can reformulate a prevailing opinion in their own words. Thought leaders buck the wisdom of the crowd and come up with fresh takes on current challenges that have eluded others. It only takes one or two truly good ideas to establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry.

Passion for One’s Area of Expertise

One thing that all thought leaders have in common is an uncommon passion for their visions. You can’t be a thought leader if you’re lukewarm on your own convictions. If you can’t get worked up about your goals, it’s unlikely that others will join you for the ride. 

Economy of Words When Conveying a Message

In many ways, thought leaders are salespeople when you get right down to it. You’re selling people on your ideas every time you open your mouth or fire off an e-mail. Keeping the message short, sweet and articulate is what makes a thought leader different from other commentators in many cases.

An Aptitude for Commanding Attention

Most thought leaders have an uncanny ability to capture the attention of an audience right out of the gate and never let go. Watch any Steve Jobs presentation and you’ll quickly see why he was so highly respected. A little bit of gravitas goes a long way when selling a vision.

The Ability to Foster Relationships

The most effective thought leaders understand that the relationship between them and their followers is a two-way street. Engaging skeptics and supporters alike is important if you want to be seen as an authority. Networking with other up-and-coming thought leaders is a great way to quickly raise your profile.

A Willingness to Court Controversy

Ground-breaking ideas aren’t always well received by the masses or even the intelligentsia when first introduced. Thought leaders aren’t afraid to mix things up from time to time by touting unorthodox notions. The most successful thought leaders are careful to avoid alienating their followings by being controversial for controversy’s sake.

Bringing It All Together

Ultimately, there’s no one-size-fits-all road map for becoming a thought leader. Nevertheless, employing a holistic approach that embraces the traits outlined above is a good way to start. The good news is that anyone can become a thought leader if they’re willing to put in the repetitions and hone their approach over time.