To become a thought leader you don't need title or rank. It's not something that is bestowed or bought. Anyone can be a thought leader. All it takes is a bit of elbow grease. Do you want to be considered a thought leader amongst your peers? Why does it matter?
A thought leader is someone whose views on a matter are influential. Others looking to learn about a topic or gain more insight turn to thought leaders for guidance. If you've ever read an inspirational quote and found yourself turning back to it throughout the day, you’ve probably come into contact with a thought leader. These are the folks who inspire others and aren’t afraid of challenging the status quo.
You don't have to be famous to occupy this role. Nor do you have to be a genius on the level of Einstein. What it does require is a willingness to embrace a topic of interest. That, and you can't be afraid to share your opinions with others and ask for their ideas in return. True thought leadership requires ownership and keeping an open mind; it’s a lot less about lecturing and more about facilitating conversations.
You may be asking yourself: why bother? Opinions are a dime a dozen. Why would anyone be interested in listening to you?
Here’s a quick way to make that happen. The secret is to ask others what they think first. You can do this by saying something like, “I was reading this article and really found it interesting, what do you think?” There’s a good chance they already have some ideas of their own. But if they don’t, that’s when you ask if they mind you sharing what you learned. Follow this by asking for feedback on what you just said. It’s a balance of give and take, not a contest of egos.
Do this, and you’ll demonstrate your ability to ask, share, and listen - only then do you give your opinion. See how that works? It fosters collaboration, connection, and possibly future conversation. It’s a highly effective way to communicate.
You start becoming a thought leader by absorbing new information that your peers need to know, but don’t. You actually become a true thought leader when they start going to you as a source of information. From there you can amplify that message both online and off. There’s no real secret here beyond that. It’s all about learning from your peers in order to teach them something cool or influence their perspective. This is not an overnight process, but practice it regularly and you’re on your way to positioning yourself ahead of the pack.
So don't fall into the trap of feeling what you have to say isn't worthwhile; it most certainly is, and we're here to help you get heard. If you don't have our own blog or website, that's okay. Posting LinkedIn articles through their publisher is a great place to start (and it's super easy to use!). And if you're looking to get even further ahead, click here. We'll share what it takes to become a Student Success Ambassador on your campus or in your school, complete with a road map to gaining valuable skills and resume experience.
Alex is Director of Content at Student Success University. When not drinking tea, discussing the finer points of English cheese, or being accused of general ‘snobbery’, he can be found in the library or on the archery range, recounting charming tales from his youth to anyone who will listen. Generally a bit of a jokester, he is quite serious about commas.