Are You a Thought Leader or a Thought Follower?

Being recognized as a thought leader within your industry offers a number of different advantages.  When people look to you for advice and guidance, you’re able to make sales more effortlessly, build a following of devoted customers more easily and pick up on upcoming market trends more quickly.

But how can you tell if you’re securing these powerful advantages through your rightful position as an industry thought leader?  Let’s take a look at some of the following characteristics of a thought leader versus a thought follower, as well as how you can model your own behavior using NLP techniques in a way that increases your standing as a strong leader in your field.

First, let’s look at some of the characteristics of true thought leaders:

  • Thought leaders are often the first to publish information on new, upcoming subjects.  You’ll frequently see their names repeated throughout the news, simply because they’re the ones creating it.
  • Thought leaders share information that’s based on their own experiences and understanding of a subject.  They don’t re-hash advice from others in the industry – instead, they offer their own valuable insight into new and existing subjects.
  • Thought leaders have no difficulty maintaining their online and offline followings.  Because they publish good, authoritative content, followers are drawn to their personal brands naturally and go out of their way to publicize their thought leaders’ work.

Now, contrast this powerful image with the stereotypical “thought follower”:

  • A thought follower is often the last to speak out on new topics.  He gets his news from other sources and then regurgitates it, adding nothing new or valuable to industry discussion on a given topic.
  • A thought follower’s activities rarely include innovation or discovery.  Instead of engaging in the work that will result in new industry insight, they ride the coattails of the industry thought leaders who take on this work.
  • Thought followers often have difficulty building a “following” of their own, whether they’re trying to persuade customers to buy or social media readers to share their content virally.  They may wonder why they aren’t able to gain traction in the way their industry’s thought leaders can, without stopping to think that it might be because they add nothing new to the conversation.

Obviously, these two definitions represent extreme examples.  In fact, it’s much more likely that you’ll fall somewhere between these two opposite ends of the spectrum, demonstrating some characteristics of both thought leaders and thought followers.

However, if you demonstrate any characteristics of being a thought follower, that means there’s room for improvement.  Check out the following process for improving your standing within your industry and increasing the odds that you’ll be respected and followed as an authority figure and thought leader within your niche:

Step #1 – Stay on top of industry news

For many thought leaders, the process of staying up-to-date on developments within their industries isn’t an item on a “to do” list – it’s something that simply occurs because of how engaged they are with their industries.

However, if you feel like you’re always playing “catch up” and missing out on the opportunity to be first in line on a breaking news story, you’ll need to make a conscious effort to schedule time into your day to stay on top of industry news.  To do so, find the most reputable news sources in your industry, block off a chunk of time on your calendar that coincides with the times when these sources are most active and then get in the habit of releasing your thoughts on recent developments right away.

Step #2 – Innovate

Thought leaders contribute substantively to their industries through innovation.  They don’t constantly report on the news of others – instead, they make the news!

Fortunately, innovating and adding something new to your niche isn’t as challenging as it sounds.  How many pieces of “conventional wisdom” can you think of that drive your industry, despite a complete lack of proof?  Creating news within your industry can be as simple as conducting research that challenges the examples of status quo you’ve uncovered and sharing the results with other thought leaders in your field.

Step #3 – Model the behaviors of established thought leaders

Thought leaders have a way of interacting with their followers that reinforces their perceived authority and personal brand within their fields.  They’re authoritative, confident and self-assured – all of which are characteristics you can model within yourself using NLP techniques.

To make yourself come across as more confident, pay special attention to the words you use.  Review your written communications before releasing them in order to remove any “hedging” words that compromise your perceived status as a thought leader.  When interacting with followers in person, be aware that your body language conveys as much about you as your words do – so be sure they’re in line with the image you wish to portray as well.

With time, practice and attention to detail, you too can achieve “thought leader” status through a combination of activities and NLP techniques that will convey your industry authority to a wide range of followers.

Image: LaBetenoir

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