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5 Steps for Becoming an Authentic Thought Leader

Why do we say ‘authentic’ thought leader?

If it’s not already obvious, it is because we know that not all thought leaders are doing it right.

Some are on an ego trip, and others are getting it wrong even though they are trying to do it right.

If you are here today, all that is about to change.

Fortunately, it does not take rocket science to become a true thought leader in your niche. In as simple as five steps, you should have transformed your entire thought leadership outlook for the better.

Why You Need This Guide


Everything we will talk about here boils down to the legacy you leave in the market.

Not everyone will become a thought leader, but that should not stop you from trying.

Thought leadership advances you as a person and pays dividends to the brand in the long run too. New doors of opportunities are opened to the organizations, evident in the 57% of B2B decision-makers who will consider a vendor based on the strength of their thought leadership alone.

The clout that comes with thought leadership also makes you the go-to person in your industry.

Opinions may abound, and ideas spread everywhere, but your audience will always wait for your unique take. This kind of influence can be leveraged to drive growth and uniquely impact the entire industry. Talk about setting the pace rather than towing the paths of those that have already blazed the trail.

You don’t have to become the only talked-about name in the industry to leave your mark on things. Becoming a thought leader in your circles alone, you will be able to leave an everlasting impact that will keep your names on the lips of decision-makers and top offices in the industry.

The 5-Step Guide

We have broken down all it takes to become a true thought leader in the following steps.

Step #1 Know Your Area of Expertise

In other words, niche down!

Your area of expertise is not something you have to do a lot of digging to get. As you are reading this section, it should have come to your mind already.

This will be a combination of your skills, industry, experience, and current position. Those define where your skills are best applied such that you can come up with unique insights that others would have missed.

Defining your area of expertise based on your industry alone can land you in hot waters, though.

For example, the financial industry is a vast one. While most top professionals in this industry know the ins and outs, they don’t see every niche as in-depth. Thus, they could be experts in tax finance and not know as much about personal finance.

Thus, it would be wrong for such a person to become a thought leader in the general finance space. They would be playing to their strengths better with a pivot to the tax finance market.

That said, a sprinkle of passion is necessary to keep things alive.

Thought leaders have to create a lot of content. Without passion, the TL campaign will fizzle out after a few attempts at flat content.

Step #2 Forget your Ego

Sam Fiorella, the author of Influencer Marketing and partner at Sensei Marketing, has this to say:

“Thought leaders do not become thought leaders by trying to be one; that’s an external focus that only satisfies the ego and blocks true enlightenment on any subject. A thought leader has a singular, internal focus on achieving mastery of a particular discipline.”

We could not have said it better ourselves.

Thought leadership should never be a power play. That is why we have maintained, multiple times, that the CEO is not necessarily the designated thought leader of a brand. Let someone else who knows better about the task at hand take charge.

That said, thought leadership is not where you promote your services and products either. This is one of the many dividends that come with thought leadership already, so why force it?

Step #3 Create Content

Knowing your niche and taking ego out of the way are internal steps. Now, you have to show what you have got to the world. This is where content comes into the mix.

As a thought leader, creating content spans more than just putting down some text and publishing it to the target audience.

The first step to creating content is knowing what kind of content to put out at all. Without that, you could just as well be a glorified content marketer.

Thought leaders excel with a combination of the following kinds of content:

  • Whitepapers and research papers
  • Surveys
  • Trendspotting (reaction content)
  • Conversational content

We have put up a resource discussing the right content mix and how they should be deployed for effective thought leadership.

Furthermore, the thought leader needs to know where their audience is. This research should niche down into what forms of content the audience will enjoy.

For example:

  • Text-based content: blogs, landing pages, outreach posts
  • Video: personal website, YouTube
  • Bite-sized content: social media networks
  • Audio content: podcasts

Not all audience types will enjoy the same kind of content. Creating fresh content for each of the different channels can get tiring and frustrating too. Leveraging a divisible content strategy, you get more out of every piece of thought leadership that you put out.

That keeps your campaign fresh enough on the content front, boosting engagement and giving you ample time to develop more in-depth concepts.

Step #4 Engage

Thought leadership is not that radio show when you talk at the audience. It is a telephone conversation where it would be considered rude if you were hogging all the attention to yourself.

Speaking of engagement, this comes in diverse ways:

  • General Audience – be around to answer questions, listen to new lines of thoughts, and embrace challenges on your thought leadership content. Do not just publish content and get on with your life. The reactions generated by such content should be effectively managed and engaged with for better community building.
  • Industry Happenings – your research might yield the best insights every time, but you should not only create content from inside. Sometimes, engage with broader industry trends. Get in on the buzzing discussions to lend your thoughts and point of view on the matter.
  • Outreach – no thought leader can get to the top by themselves. It would help if you had a network of influencers in your niche further to reach a broader audience and further cement your authority. Reach out to these influencers with a proposal to work together sometimes. Your kind of industry will determine the dynamics of that.
  • Collaborations – it is wrong to think that working with other thought leaders diminishes your authority. There is room for many thought leaders to play, and your partnerships don’t make anyone less of a thought leader. Seek out quality collaborations and key into such when they come your way too.

The above list touches upon the various segments of interactions you would be making as a thought leader. With all of them, you should always engage in advancing your message and conversations.

Step #5 Keep Growing

The problems that you solve today won’t be here again tomorrow. Even if they would be, you had already provided a solution to it.

Every day, we face new challenges in different walks of life. Solving that requires a set of skills that prepares us to solve even more future problems. That will only be possible with constant growth.

Without growth, thought leaders get stuck in a rut. It becomes almost impossible to leave their current shells. In no time, they start to lose relevance.

The thought leader is expected to be at the forefront of conversations, but they are not likely to know everything. Thus, it is not beneath you to take training that will better hone your problem-solving skills.

Seek out new challenges that put your skills to the test. Please don’t be shy to ask for help when you need it.

The aim is not to always get to the bottom of the problem alone. The objective is to get to the bottom of the problem.

Will You Go the Entire 9 Yards?

Everything you need to become an authentic thought leader is broken down into five steps, as we promised.

We won’t tell you that each step is as easy as they look. What we will say to you, however, is that they are all worth the trouble.

Besides being the one that industry players look up to, you also get to provide more value to your brand. This is a win-win any day.

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