People have often wondered what it takes to be a leader. On the outside, leaders present themselves in such a way that everyone wants to be them. We all want to be successful. We all want people to look up to us. On the other hand, when we realize what it takes to actually be a leader, we might be a bit hesitant to take up the task.
Thought leadership is no different from leadership in other fields of life. It requires dedication and hard work. If you go by what Malcolm Gladwell writes in his book Outliers, it takes about 10,000 hours of hard work to be successful in any field. So if you want to be a thought leader, you might need to put 10,000 hours of work into it.
Fortunately, however, this doesn’t merely mean that you have to spend 10,000 hours blogging or being on social media. You can also count the time that you actually put into your work. For example, if you’re in the marketing field and you want to become a thought leader, you’ll need to put 10,000 hours of work into marketing itself and devote a fair amount of those hours to creating the type of web presence which will help you disperse your thoughts on the internet.
Thought leadership can be approached in various ways. Here are a few of them:
According to this writer from Huffington Post, there are seven qualities which thought leaders possess. Some of these are inner qualities, like intelligence and self-confidence. However, some of them are outer qualities such as beauty, money and connections.
- Beauty and Leadership. The above writer says, “Like money, beauty is one of those traits that it saddens me to admit is worth an exceptional amount in our culture. The fact that something you were born with (or bought) can help you so much in your business life is unfair.” However, the fact is that appearances can help you become a leader, so you do need to work on them.
- Aesthetics and Thought Leadership. In the case of thought leadership, it’s not just about what you’re born with but how you present yourself. How does your blog look on the internet? Is reading it a pleasant experience? Do people get to see beautiful, striking images with it as well? By working on these aesthetic qualities of your website, blog and social media pages, you’ll be doing quite a bit to advance yourself in terms of thought leadership.
- Connections and Thought Leadership. These are also important to thought leadership. And you can create these by referring to other experts in your own writing. Show your readers that you’re engaged in what’s going on in your field. Link to other writers and address them in your own writing. If you can set up a back and forth between yourself and another thought leader in your field, you’ll be on your way to becoming a thought leader yourself.
There are also several inner qualities that go along with leadership in general and thought leadership in particular. This writer from Entrepreneur says, “I’ve learned that you have two choices on how you approach intelligent risks: you can choose to tap into the feelings of anxiety or you can choose to identify with the excitement of risks.” According to him, the more risks you learn to take, the more successful you are. And the more successful you are, the more people look up to you and take you to be their leader.
- Risk-Taking and Self-Confidence. If you want to learn to take risks, you have to believe in yourself and what you’re trying to do. You have to have self-confidence. You have to be able to visualize the future you want to create. These are not outer qualities but inner ones. And according to many writers and thinkers, these might be the main qualities that determine whether or not you’re going to be successful. Outer qualities can only get you so far; it’s the inner ones which will eventually cinch the deal.
- Emotional Intelligence. According to Daniel Goleman who wrote the book Emotional Intelligence, the essence of a successful person is the ability to pick yourself up and keep going despite failure. Hard work, especially sustained hard work in any one direction, will get you the things that you want. But you’re not going to be able to put in all that hard work unless you have emotional intelligence i.e., the ability to process how you’re feeling. A lot of us just bottle up the way we feel and keep it inside. Instead, you have to learn to let those feelings out and use them. You have to find healthy ways to use all the emotional energy inside you. Once you’ve mastered this ability, success in any field, including thought leadership is just a matter of time.
- Visualization. Visualization can also play a role in your development. You need to visualize exactly what it means to be a thought leader. Do you see your company being known as the foremost in its field? Do you see the latest developments in your field being featured on your blog? Do you see an increase in the popularity of your product and more traffic being directed towards your website? Visualization basically means being really clear on what you’re aiming for so that you can move in that direction with greater ease.