A more generic online definition says “A thought leader can refer to an individual or firm that is recognized as an authority in a specialized field and whose expertise is sought and often rewarded” Obviously, while it is a horizontal term what it takes to become a thought leader in every discipline is very specific to that individual discipline – the overall process in terms of innovation, efficiency in execution, research may all be the same, but the measured outcomes can be very different in every discipline.
I was reading a post that talked about 5 things to do to become a thought leader in your industry – https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/249034 – while this has valid points around networking, blogging, getting published often, working with mentors/influencers etc., this is not all. In fact, these are not where thought leadership really starts. These are more about how to propagate the thought leadership both within and outside the organization which really fall under the bucket of evangelism.
While the innovation and R&D teams are often great places to promote thought leadership, it really can start at every employee’s level. I can be my own thought leader and to the rest of my team and organization, if I am able to clearly understand the what, when, why, how of what I am doing, what it takes to go the extra mile and how it all maps to the industry and domain I belong to. If I can understand these and look for ways to improve efficiencies, share knowledge and buy in that all of these are part of an ongoing learning cycle, anyone can really be a thought leader in what they do.
I wanted to specifically take this topic for discussion, as in my organization I drive the evangelism efforts. As part of evangelism when I tell people about the blogs, white papers and case studies we write people often confuse it with marketing material. If not marketing they map it to a technical writing effort, while I think evangelism really has a flavour of both. Evangelism is an important activity in driving thought leadership. I have heard several people ask in conferences that we attend as to how we have such good representation in these focused events with people from varied levels of experience in the organization partaking in speaking events. I take this as a testimonial to our thought leadership efforts, where we encourage even our fresher engineers to understand the value of what they do, help them think big beyond the core charter of their daily work, create adequate platforms for them to showcase their efforts both internally and externally and ultimately take pride in their contributions back to the industry. Such a bottoms up “start within” approach is what we believe in, in our drive towards thought leadership.