How to Establish Yourself as a Thought Leader
In June 2010, a relatively unknown researcher took the stage to share about expanding perception. That woman was Brene Brown, the stage was TED and her message went viral (to date it’s had over 8.2 million views worldwide). One speech catapulted Brene into the spotlight, establishing her as the thought leader on vulnerability. And while your goal might not be to touch the lives of 8 million people like Brene has, establishing yourself as a thought leader—in any capacity—has many benefits for you personally and professionally.
A thought leader is someone who is recognized as an authority in a specialized field and whose expertise is sought, shared and often rewarded. The best thought leaders are honest and humble, sharing to provide value.
Sharing your expertise adds value to your network. If done well, it will keep you top of mind and organically grow your business. For coaches, sharing can be a way to attract your niche and attract your ideal clients. The process of establishing yourself as a thought leader hits on all three sales requirements: know, like and trust. In addition, it is a way to personally brand yourself and stand out in a crowded marketplace. It’s also a great strategy to pivot your brand or business by finding the intersection of your experience, expertise and what is new and exciting to you.
To establish yourself as a thought leader, consider:
- What do people seek your opinion about?
- What are you passionate about?
- What is a disruptive idea you have?
- What is the legacy you are working towards?
The answers to these questions can shine the light on what topic(s) your network already sees you as a thought leader on—or the direction you want to grow into. You may be hesitant to share, fearing that if you do, people will realize you don’t know as much as they think you do. You may even feel like a fraud. It’s normal; most of us have been there at some point (it’s called Imposter Syndrome). To develop into a thought leader, you only need to be one step ahead of the person who is listening.
Here are a few ways to establish yourself as a though leader:
Speaking is a great way to raise your profile and maximize your impact. Speaking differentiates you from other coaches and establishes you as a thought leader. It’s an opportunity to share your ideas and energy, which will attract your ideal clients. For example, you could do a discovery call to connect with one client or speak in front of a room of 100 people. It can also grow your business by helping add names to your email list; I’ve easily grown my list by 1,000 potential clients through speaking engagements.
Be Social on Social Media
Social media is a good place to start. Pick a platform and show up ready to engage. Studies have shown that upwards of 98 percent of users are considered lurkers on social media, meaning they consume but don’t contribute—they show up for the party, but they aren’t ready to hit the dance floor. So by shifting into the 2 percent and making a comment here or there, you are slowly elevating yourself as a though leader, almost by default.
Blogging is a great way to share your ideas. You can start your own blog and share on social media if you want to go all in. Or, you can start small. You could approach someone in a complimentary niche and pitch to be a guest blogger on their blog. Or, consider contributing a professional blog like ICF Coaching World. It’s a great way to try it without the long-term commitment, and then you also affiliate your brand with the brand you are writing for.
Video as a medium is exploding in popularity. Case in point: Currently over 100 million hours of video content are watched on Facebook daily. By 2020, over 75 percent of the world’s mobile data traffic will be video. Consider making a two-minute video on a topic you are very passionate about. That energy will attract people to your message. Bonus: Social media algorithms are set up to reward video content.
Have you considered starting a podcast? It’s another growing medium. Like with blogging, if you aren’t into a long-term commitment, or shy away from the tech involved, consider pitching yourself to be a guest on your favorite podcast. I’ve been interviewed dozens of times; I’ve even made a few good friends after hitting it off with the hosts during the interview. If your interview goes well, consider looping back when you have a new service to promote or a fresh take on a hot topic.
When it comes to developing yourself as a thought leader, it takes time and effort to become known as one. Even if you’re still gaining experience as a coach, it’s never too early to think like a thought leader and share what you’ve learned. Your story and ideas are valuable to others in a similar position and to those who have even less experience than you.