Thought Leadership Is Not A Self-Awarded Title

Putting yourself on a pedestal is a great way to keep people away.

There are over 1 million people who have the words “thought leader” somewhere in their LinkedIn profile. But are they really? Can you appoint yourself as one?

The way I see it, it's a big no. Being a “thought leader” is not something you can assign to yourself. You can add this title to your website, LinkedIn, and every presentation you make, but it’s not credible unless backed by a real body of work.

It’s how others perceive you. In a recent survey that asked "who counts as a thought leader?", here are some insightful numbers:

  • 68% agreed that being an expert in their field is the most important trait of a thought leader.
  • 70% thought that brands are as capable of being thought leaders as individuals are.
  • 77% answered no to the question, “does a thought leader need to have a large social media following?”

Engagement seems to be more important than popularity. The marketers in the study didn’t think that you need to be an influencer to be a thought leader, but they did want you to be able to tell consultative stories and provoke a conversation.

How should you do that? The qualities that were ranked as most important are:

  1. The ability to communicate clearly.
  2. The ability to challenge the way others think.
  3. The ability to use data to back up your position.

The desperate search for social status and recognition will actually have a negative effect on your reputation.

Another recent study of conference attendees showed they registered an overwhelming aversion to any sessions that had “thought leader” in the title. Putting yourself on a pedestal is a great way to keep people away.

Don't add the title to your communications. If you are generous with your knowledge and educate your audience, you win naturally earn it.

PS: Do you have 3 minutes and want to have a good laugh? Watch this inspiring video from a thought leader below.

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