Perhaps with the rise of “influencers”, the idea of “thought leaders” has been slightly overshadowed. But every day I meet people who have a compelling message to share and lack either the ability or platform from which to share it.
This week, I want to discuss four ways to become a true thought leader – not an influencer masquerading as someone with something to say, but one who can separate the signal from the noise.
For clarification, just because you run a company, create a widget, or have a niche website doesn’t make you a thought leader. Further, dropping the occasional “truth bomb” on social doesn’t make you a thought leader.
Instead, a true thought leader brings a human element to the conversation, provides a unique perspective, breaks down barriers, and exposes underlying themes.
How can you do this?
1. Define your narrative: A thought leader must build a personal narrative that resonates with their audience. But before that, you must clearly define who you wish to impact. You cannot be all things to all people. You must accept that some people will not agree with you and may even fight your position. Your narrative must be built upon your passion, insight, and experience within your domain.
2. Find your voice: Don’t mimic the voice of someone else, but find your own. A voice-over artist once said, “It’s great that you can sound like Mickey Mouse. But can you sound like Mickey Mouse when he is sad? Or happy? Or swimming? Or eating?”
Mimicking the voice of another is surface-level. Draw inspiration from those you admire, but, for depth, make sure you are sharing your message your way and in a vocabulary your audience speaks. Assuming the voice of someone else leads to insecurity and imposter syndrome.
3. Aim for your MVA: Minimal viable audience. All comedians test their new material on small crowds. As you are discovering your voice and message, accept a small audience. Learn their nuances, listen to how they react, and understand what matters to them.
4. Consistency: Many content creators drop out and give up before the wider adoption of their message. Stick with it. Don’t try to be everywhere all the time. Instead, consistently show up where your growing audience spends their time.
How You Can Become a True Thought Leader
Thought leadership can be developed through these four steps:
- Define Your Narrative
- Find Your Voice
- Aim for your MVA
- Show Up Consistently
The benefits of effective thought leadership span far beyond what we can measure. But I know it can repair or maintain brand reputation, earn trust and credibility, bring attention to otherwise overlooked topics, and attract talent and new business.
This week, avoid setting out to “establish thought leadership”, instead, provide value to a group you’re passionate about. You’ll soon see the reward.
All the best,