Good business leaders are hard to come by; whilst many may fulfil the basic functions of a senior manager in that they make decisions based on sound financial and productivity data, it’s rare to find a leader that sports the qualities needed to be considered a thought leader.
This is often reflected in the way in which they are viewed by their staff. Some are also blinded by the bottom line, and therefore unaware of how basic changes could positively impact their company.
Gallup research claims that around 70% of UK employees are actively disengaged at work. Why? Because of their leadership; a recent study by Career Builder claims that 58% of leaders haven’t actually received management training, and 89% are completely unaware that the main reason that employees quit is because of their leadership – actively misconstruing this as a push for more money.
And this is having a massive impact on the way that professionals view their bosses. Harvard Business Review data suggests that 58% of workers would trust a stranger more than their own boss, whilst 79% of people who quit cite a ‘lack of appreciation’ from their leadership.
What is a thought leader?
It may sound like a classic business buzzword, but actually thought leadership literally simply refers to being as informed as you possibly can be, and then seeing the broad spectrum of your industry, with a view to implementing policies based on this in your own company. No one definition for a thought leader
exists, yet most agree that it’s someone who is a trendsetter, and someone who is a ‘top dog’ in their field.
Russ Allan, leadership specialist and contributor for Forbes magazine, stated that his view of a thought leader is this: “A thought leader is an individual or firm that prospects, clients, referral sources, intermediaries and even competitors recognise as one of the foremost authorities in selected areas of specialisation, resulting in it being the go-to individual or organisation for said expertise.”
Yet his next point is slightly more poignant. He said that almost as important as being a thought leader, is being viewed as a thought leader. He said: “A thought leader is an individual or firm that significantly profits from being recognised as such.”
How do you become one, or at least be viewed as one?
Becoming a thought leader isn’t an overnight process; it takes groundwork. This means working hard to build credibility in your field. Your workers should trust you implicitly. Other leaders should value your advice. You should be seen as someone who could hold their own in a debate or be invited to speak at industry events.
Know your audience
Knowing your industry is essential, and so is knowing your audience. Who are you advising? What positive change is coming from your input? How are you affecting outcomes and who do you need to address to do so? These are questions you must answer.
Tell your story
Context is essential in any road-map. Where have you come from and how does this affect where you’re going? Where were your expertise honed? Anyone can read a book – how are you actively using your past experiences to implement good change?
This doesn’t just mean sipping wine at an annual business conference. This means immersing yourself in the experiences of others in your field. Build a powerful LinkedIn community around you and be active on it. Read your trade news and engage in as much conversation as you can. Be passionate and build passion. This also helps you build on the last point…
…which is, gain as much knowledge as you possibly can. This is the route of all things. You must know your industry inside and out. Read everything, watch everything, listen to podcasts and build your own opinions. Use this information to see patterns and understanding.