Don't Be An Expert, Be A Thought Leader: 5 Ways To Become A Thought Leader

Coauthored by Annie Provenzano

It's easy to confuse being an expert or being a thought leader. However, it is a lot easier becoming an expert than being a thought leader. How does one distinguish the two? An expert possesses knowledge that is usually focused on a singular set of skills for the purpose of achieving success or overcoming an obstacle for a particular activity without working beyond the foundational scope. A thought leader is a little bit more complicated and requires a lot more work.

A thought leader is an individual who propels innovation and new ideas [not necessarily status quo], that are being brought into established foundations and can be seeking to disrupt the current boundaries to execute contemporary initiatives across industries. These individuals provide intellectual and financial resources by using their personal brand's status, proven advice, and social connections to help grow industries they are associated with.

Sounds like a feat to accomplish for anyone who is beginning to establish their personal brand, especially for women leaders as industries are shifting to become more inclusive of diverse voices. However, it is absolutely doable if you start by following these 5 Ways to Become A Thought Leader.

Create Continuous, Thoughtful Content to Publish and Share Across All Social Platforms
You must establish your voice, your ideas, and your credibility by hitting the ground running with continuous and consistent content that is being pushed out frequently across all social platforms. This requires pieces being written at least twice a week and published or shared on platforms such as Medium, LinkedIn Pulse, Facebook, personal blog, company blog (with permission), etc. If you can crank out an inspiring e-book, or better yet, have your work published by a reputable publishing company - this will only help in elevating your voice above the noise. By introducing new ideas with a constant and consistent cadence, your name will become recognized in conjunction with that topic in those industries or with those already bonafide leaders.

Utilize Social and Industry Networks To Connect With Like-Minded Leaders, Mentors, Media, and Followers
Aggressively building a robust online presence will provide endless benefits. This is not simply about "follow for follow" or "like for like." This is about specific outreach and intellectual engagement by making online connections with like-minded leaders, who in turn may become mentors. These leaders or mentors are going to be pivotal to your success because you should be emulating these folks, how they represent themselves, and the work they produce. Leveraging these connections can also lead to making media contacts who will be willing to use you as a source for an industry specific story they are working on, willfully publish your article on their vertical, or invite you for on-air time to provide insights. Building your personal brand, content, and engaging across these platforms will build a following, which will boost your reputation and provide more credibility to the purpose you are serving.

Establish Influence By Becoming A Great Public Speaker and Getting In Front of Media
If you do not already have an affinity for being a great public speaker, don't worry, it can be taught. Practice makes perfect. Start small by perfecting your pitch or presentation to teammates and colleagues. Read up on different techniques and -- as strange as it sounds -- record yourself giving a speech or providing answers to pre-made questions; this will allow you to see and hear what you can perfect. Then begin applying for industry speaking engagements. For example, this year I spoke at the Global Ecommerce Leaders Forum in Los Angeles to an audience of marketing industry leaders. Slowly you will begin to not only build your confidence, but circulate your personal brand and innovative strategies into the mainstream. Another tip: try to have someone film these speaking engagements and use the videos as pitching materials when approaching media to become an on-air guest.

Apply for [and Win] Award Recognition to Build Credibility
There may be some pressure to achieve this, but the harder you work at expanding your brand, the easier it will be to have the subsistence to apply for industry awards. It wouldn't hurt to make Forbes 30 Under 30, but in the meantime, start small. Win awards within in your company and build up by applying to awards in your industry. Every industry has at least one notable award; advertisers have the Clio, radio broadcast have the Marconi, and countless Entrepreneur and Innovation awards. Be brave and continue to push the limits in order to be recognized what you have to offer. This can also apply to your company; submit your company for awards, because any success will reflect on you and your leadership.

Keep Growing by Learning Beyond What You Know
In this day and age of technology and evolution, innovation equally changes just as quickly. You must learn to evolve within your scope of knowledge, proposals, and projects to continue to compete and stay relevant. Always keep in mind that you may need to shift towards a new direction and the only way to conquer that challenge is to continue learning, growing, and intellectually engaging with those you've brought into your inner circle and vice versa. Your leadership will be able to grow and mature as you continue on this path.