Thought Leaders are influencers. For most, it takes years in the same or related industries to gain the level of expertise, prestige, and recognition necessary to become known as a leader in their field. However, that is just one of many traits Thought Leaders share. Having worked closely with several Thought Leaders over the years, we have identified other characteristics they have in common.
See which ones describe you.
Thought Leaders are Persistent
One of our Thought Leader clients has been an advocate for Green Cleaning for more than 25 years. In the beginning, he and Green Cleaning were considered little more than a fad. Yet, he persisted in believing that Green Cleaning was a healthier, safer, and more effective way to clean commercial buildings.
Worse than having his ideas viewed as a fad, he was occasionally met with lawsuits related to his position. Say something wrong about a traditional cleaning method or type of cleaning product – even if several different manufacturers made it – and it was not uncommon for a lawsuit to land on his doorstep. Most people would have walked away long ago. But he persisted, and that is why he is now viewed as one the most influential Thought Leaders in the professional cleaning industry.
Thought Leaders are Confident
Closely related to persistence, a Thought Leader is confident in their views. Typically, they have extensively performed their due diligence to support their positions, or their opinions are based on years of experience. Using our Green Cleaning Thought Leader again as an example, he would have moved on years ago if he were not confident that using environmentally preferable cleaning solutions was safer, healthier, and effective. That confidence is crucial to their leadership.
Thought Leaders are Courageous
A successful Thought Leader has the courage to champion their beliefs and principles, even if that means endorsing uncommon ideas. They are risk-takers. It is one thing to believe something, but it is entirely different when someone dares to take bold action and promote those ideas to others. Leading others into uncharted territory takes courage.
Thought Leaders are Consistent
Thought Leaders don’t vacillate. Consider our Green Cleaning advocate. He knew what he believed in, had done his research, and strongly believed the cleaning industry needed to reduce its impact on the environment. But what if, after several years, he backtracked, saying Green Cleaning solutions were too expensive and did not perform as well as expected?
Suppose he stopped advocating for them and began promoting traditional cleaning solutions, then, a few years later turned around and started promoting environmentally preferable products once again. For this gentleman, his role as a Thought Leader would be over. Neither those organizations promoting Green Cleaning nor those advocates for traditional cleaning methods would trust him any longer.
Thought Leaders are Transparent
A situation experienced by one of our Thought Leader clients illustrates this quality. Working with a large corporation, he faced a major challenge: the client had reached a fork in the road, not knowing which direction the company should take. This Thought Leader was unsure which path to recommend. To address the quandary, he had to tell the organization he simply did not know how to advise them. It was not easy. It made him feel weak and very vulnerable. All he could do was try to help them reach their own decision. In the end, the corporation respected him for being so transparent.
One final characteristic of successful Thought Leaders is that they have the self-awareness to know what they do not know. Very often, Thought Leaders are experts about their industry and how to help others, but they do not know how to get others to know about them. They do not have any type of marketing plan in place, nor do they know how to create one.
Successful Thought Leaders know what they do not know; they know when it is time to call in a specialist to help them promote themselves to their industries, market their expertise, and reach the people who will hire them.