Are you a thought leader?

Editor’s Note: This article was produced and written by Laura Garnett. You can view the original article here. This article contains some interesting, high-level insights on what it means to be a thought leader, and some common characteristics that define this type of person. For more content about being a thought leader, check out this incredible Scoop.it topic on thought leadership.

Ask.com says that a thought leader is an individual or firm that is recognized as an authority in a specialized field and whose expertise is sought and often rewarded. In a world where information is often it’s own currency, thought leaders are seen as a resource because in order to earn that status, they have made a career of focusing on their primary expertise. Being a thought leader has cachet and, according to Malcolm Gladwell, if you spend 10,000 hours focused on one thing, then you’ll end up being an expert at it. Being a thought leader also takes focus, and in today’s world, that is often a challenge. Business owners are looking for the next big thing, rather than owning their one thing. However, when you do, you have the potential to lead and help shift the thinking of others. Many of us would strive for this, but, how do you know if you are actually leading others in the way they think and behave?

Here are five signs that you may be an emerging or existing thought leader:

1) You have a unique perspective on something universal There are thousands of ways to catalyze change.You have a unique idea that seems to click with a certain group of people and help them move forward. Think about how many chefs there are. Yet, we never tire of trying new foods. A chef focusing on his or her genius and cultivating it becomes legendary. Consider Mario Batali. He stays true to his core strength — simple Italian food with exceptional ingredients. He doesn’t stray from that, and as a result, he continues to own the Italian cuisine space in New York.

2) You are driven to serve the world or people in some way. You are not solely working to make money. You are driven by a higher purpose and it is all about changing the world in some way. You get the most satisfaction from seeing change occur as a result of your work. Richard Branson said in a recent article that “My professional inspiration has no separation from my personal inspiration: It is people who will stop at nothing to make a positive difference to other people’s lives.”

3) You are highly motivated and inspire others with your enthusiasm. Your mission is clear, and over time it fuels you to continue to evolve. Other random projects don’t sidetrack you because you are so passionate about your mission. In fact, you turn down other opportunities because you don’t want to lose steam on the work that you are doing. Think of Tony Robbins — his energy is infectious and his events are spell-binding. He has the ability to shift people’s thinking in a matter of hours. He is all about transformation and is tireless in his enthusiasm for his work. I had the opportunity to meet him one-on-one, and was immediately drawn to his intense focus. You can read my article about my participation in a 100-person Tony Robbins Platinum event in Scotland a few years ago.

4) You are inspired by expansiveness but you are focused on one thing. You have always been driven toward doing something big. You may not be able to accurately explain why, it’s just always been that way. “Big” excites you and making an impact is a thrill. The key is that the impact is connected to you and feels authentic. If not, then you immediately lose motivation. Can you imagine Suze Ormone not working as money expert? Can you imagine Oprah not helping others having a great life? No, because they are thought leaders that have been focused on their one thing, for decades. They own their space and will for as long as they are around.

5) You love people. You see people as a laboratory. You are constantly learning from them and are more interested in hearing their stories than sharing your own.  As someone who is trying to create change in other peoples lives, you are more interested in how people think, live, and experience life, because it helps you get more connected to the challenges they are facing in regards to your mission.

Reposted with permission from Delivering Happiness.

  • Barry Deutsch

    You raise some excellent points about how one might perceive themselves as a thought leader. What about the other side – how long does it take to develop a critical mass of respect, authority, recognition of how other individuals perceive you.

    Part of being a thought leader is the engagement level of people reading your book, sending you questions, engaging on-line through Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, comments on your blog, and blog and tweets getting re-published. You’re asked for your opinion frequently, you’re interviewed on a regular basis, and your clients/prospects seek you out for answers – many times in unrelated areas to your specific expertise because of the trust for transparent and honest information.

    You can publish your “thought leadership” all day long, but if no one is listening, are you still a thought leader?

    Barry Deutsch
    IMPACT Hiring Solutions
    http://www.impacthiringsolutions.com/blog

  • http://www.bookleverageblog.com/ George Rodriguez

    To Barry’s point I think you have to have a platform that raises you above the din. There are thousands of smart people with a story to tell and who meet all five of your points, but unless you can get heard through the noise of the internet your message will get lost. Michael Hyatt’s great book “Platform” is one way to begin to get your unique voice heard.

    Thank you for an engaging post.

  • http://creativeflowevolution.com/ Paul Grout

    This is an excellent article which I am sure many people can connect to. I totally agree with the concept with what you focus on is what you become. Strong enthusiasm and willpower is great to get started with our missions to serve the world. My concern is that if we keep pushing ourselves without enjoying the process we can may start to become lost in the field of ‘wanting’ and not doing.

    We are all creative machines who desire passion and purpose in what we do. So I believe that willpower is much more effective when we create a underlining purpose which gives us the passion keep on track to achieve the goal with flow. Focus is very important. What helps me stay on track of my mission to help people find their creative flow is to ensure I have a healthy balance for work and play. For example, I normally get my best ideas when I relax and dedicate time for fun. I am certainly going to share this article with my community. Thank you for this inspiring post. http://creativeflowevolution.com/

  • HunleyFinder

    One of the biggest things is to never give up. I am not saying I am a thought leader, but many of the ideas that I started promoting fifty years are just now gaining acceptance (as the result of many people’s efforts). The public is just now starting to realize that there are millions of shipwrecks and that they are a resource that should not be monopolized by government and academia, as they can not afford to properly explore even one hundredth of one percent of them. Reasonable laws should be passed to protect the wrecks while still allowing access to them by sport divers and commercial salvors.

  • Kevin Rosen

    All of these are great points and have a common denominator. I was just listened to a Google Chat with Richard Branson and Elon Musk http://icrav.it/155zg72 in which Sir Branson talks about one of the most important things you can do is surround yourself with people who are smarter than you and build your initial team with people who love the dream not the idea of getting rich. Without the proper team and/or support behind you, it is nearly impossible to be successful. We have used this in building the foundation of our company http://www.cravelocal.com.

  • http://www.callboxinc.com/ Belinda Summers

    Love number two! A thought leader knows how to listen to his/her member and always make decision for the betterment of everyone. :)

  • regis E rexleo

    thankx again!! SO TRUE and benefic way of thinking …. SO THIS IS IT!! always focusing and be guide by our passion is the thrill… TO EARN MONEY OUGHT TO be secondary to me by an ancient weird bad educational treatment and my own self engagement not to be ‘rich’!!
    Until now,IT HAS WORKED … but i ‘m changing that point of view and it’s so recomforting to hear about other similar experiences and share with people involved in this same self- motion…..