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Five Strategies for Becoming a Thought Leader Without Publishing a Book

by Marcia Yudkin

Imagine being the person whose name comes to mind first when newcomers or outsiders to your industry ask who they should pay attention to. Imagine a cadre of fans who retweet you, link to your site, refer you to their colleagues and customers, suggest you as a speaker and more – without being paid to do so or expecting anything in return.

All the above happens when you carve out a reputation for being a thought leader. 

Ask around, and everyone who understands reputation building in business will tell you that the surest way to reach the status of a thought leader is to write and publish a book. However, if you lack the time, energy or commitment for that kind of effort, it’s possible for you to achieve the same result through blogging, tweeting, contributing to online forums or email lists, presenting talks or webinars and so on.

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Use the guidelines below to select one or more strategies for content that can propel you to wide recognition as a thought leader.

1. Stake out a position that is controversial in some way. This position needs to be broad enough that you can write or talk about different aspects of it over time without repeating yourself. You act as a leader because you often or always have provocative things to say, opinions that get others talking. 

2. Be known for or identified with a certain approach to your topic, so when people think of that approach, you’re one of the first people they think of. Your approach need not be controversial. For example, unlike the systems approach of most professional organizers, you might offer advice on how to keep your home organized in just ten minutes a day.

3. Provide more detail and substance on one specific issue that’s important in your industry. Be extremely useful on this issue, and soon enough everyone else wants to refer back to you. Maybe your specialization is product design for lefties, or browser security, or Jaguar transmissions, or living wills.

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4. Identify trends. Be the source of insightful predictions and below-the-surface analysis of what is going on in your industry. This does not necessarily require doing your own surveys or data collection. You can simply be a good listener, a great observer and someone who is willing to step out on a limb and later be proven wrong (or right).

5. Be very well-connected – a mover and shaker, the one who makes things happen, so people want to know what you are thinking. Here you play the role of ringleader, whether or not you have any official permission to do so. You put on the best conferences, you do favors for a lot of people, you start petitions, you schmooze on the phone and seem to know everyone who matters. You’re a big shot with an intellectual bent.

Being perceived as a thought leader goes beyond being perceived as competent or even an expert. Others think of you not just as someone who knows what they’re doing but as someone eminently worth following. Selecting one of the strategies above may skyrocket you into that status. Put at least two of the strategies to work for even better results!

Copyright 2016 Marcia Yudkin.  All rights reserved.

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