How to Be a Thought Leader (Part 1): How Thought Leadership Matters

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Lately a lot of buzz has been surrounding the idea of thought leadership. While the term is currently facing a media boom, the concept is not new. To be a thought leader is simply to be known as a specialist. The importance of thought leadership is especially pronounced in non-professions, jobs that do not require certification, such as, business due to the lack of an external marker separating those who are proficient in a subject from those who are not.

Thought leadership can both advance and prolong careers by acting as an extra credential that makes a person harder to dispose. Yes, Coco Chanel's words that "in order to be indispensable, you must first be different" still hold true in the world of business. However, more important than simply being different is having an audience that lends credibility to the views you hold. Simply being controversial for the sake of controversy will not elevate your career. No, on the contrary, a person must be seen as thinking outside of the box and consequently coming to a difference of opinion that holds validity even with those who do not completely agree. People exposed to your opinions must at the minimum think, "I disagree, but that's quite an interesting point. I never thought about it from that angle," with angle being the operative word. The function of a thought leader is to expand their audiences' consciousness to experience different and new ways of thinking. This will naturally result in new and possibly more effective solutions to problems.

It is an absolute necessity for a thought leader to have an audience to lead, or at the very least to affect. There are many ways to go about building thought leadership. However, all of them share one thing in common: the production of content to transmit useful information. You should identify and satisfy a need in the marketplace of ideas, seeing your intellect as a product and the content you produce as free samples luring customers to eventually purchase products and/or services. The goal is to inflate your perceived value as assessed by those who are willing to pay for your expertise by hiring you as an employee, retaining you as a consultant, or buying your products. There are many ways to monetize your intellectual capital. However, before you can garner a premium price, you must first become a thought leader. LinkedIn is one tool you can utilize to this end.

LinkedIn, the popular professional network, now allows individuals to publish posts. This grants you the opportunity to write about subject matter relevant to your area of expertise and share ideas to your network of both people you do and do not know. Both types of people serve as potential connections to a job or other career advancing opportunity. The advantage of these posts is further amplified if you attach a LinkedIn "Share" button to a company blog that you manage. Doing so distinguishes you from being an everyday poster to a publisher, which now due to LinkedIn's purchase of Pulse in 2013 allows publishers to syndicate their material on Pulse platform and thus reach those outside one's LinkedIn Network. In both cases, those on LinkedIn can choose to follow posters thereby allowing them to receive all later articles by the one they follow.

In Part 2 of the series, I will discuss blogging and guest blogging through online syndicates such as Forbes, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post and Yahoo Finance.