Whatever your particular area of interest, there are probably a few you look to when you want some insight about current politics, cultural trends, or other things that are happening. These thought leaders may become very prominent and can influence the direction of politics and culture if enough people follow them. You may aspire to be one of those people yourself someday, but how do you become one? The steps below can help you achieve this.
Become an Expert
One of the first steps in becoming a thought leader is becoming an expert in a particular area. Getting a bachelor’s degree is an excellent foundation for this expertise. It won’t make you an actual expert, but it will expose you to people who are. It will also give you the opportunity to see what others who have come before you have done and said. While self-education is a wonderful thing and is actually something that you should pursue throughout your life, it has one drawback if you lack a strong foundation in the subject matter of your choice. You can end up in a situation where you are spending a lot of time essentially reinventing the wheel, having insights that seem original to you, but that are actually well known and understood in your field.
Getting your degree can introduce you to the basics so that you avoid this error and can also provide you with additional skills, including communication, leadership, and research skills, that will serve you well as a thought leader. You may be tempted to skip this step if you are worried about cost. However, there are many different ways to get funding to cover your tuition and other expenses. Scholarships, grants and federal financial aid may all be possibilities, but you can also look into private student loans. There are a number of lenders online that offer these.
Create Original Research
You’ll learn more about how to do research when you’re working on your degree, and this will serve you well as a thought leader. Doing original research really gives you the opportunity to create a name and a niche for yourself. You can provide insight that no one else can based on that research. This can also be an important cornerstone of establishing your brand. If you aren’t sure where to start with your research, consider what questions are not being asked by anyone else in your field? Alternately, what questions are going notably unanswered? And what things are most important to the people who follow your particular area of interest? The answers to these questions can give you some inspiration about where to position yourself as someone who can offer valuable new information.
Have a Point of View
While you need to be liked and respected in order to be a successful thought leader, the way to get there is not by agreeing with everyone. You need to establish a particular point of view, and you must present your point of view in an authoritative way. Note that authoritative is not the same as authoritarian, with the former suggesting confidence and competence and the latter suggesting that you’re trying to shut down all other points of view. In fact, while being confident in your presentation, you shouldn’t imply that no one else is capable of being correct or that you are never wrong. If you’re genuinely confident, you have the grace to step back and admit when you got something wrong and to credit the person who helped to correct you.
In order to be a thought leader, you need to influence others, and in order to influence others, you have to spend time with them. This means networking both online and offline, and there are a few different ways to do it. First, try to publish as often as you can. Next, be active on social media, exchanging thoughts and ideas with others. However, you need to get out into the world as well. Go to in-person events, such as seminars and conferences, and offer yourself as a panelist or speaker. In addition, try to connect with both mentors and influencers. Mentors can help you in your career, advising you about the direction that you take. You can partner with influencers to promote your brand with new audiences.