Whether leaders are born or made has been debated for hundreds of years. On the one hand, many believe that people are born with innate skills such as charisma, confidence, influence, and decisiveness, which enable them to fall into place as future leaders naturally. On the other hand, many believe learned skills such as real-world experience, development programs, and adapting to one’s surroundings help distinguish leaders from the rest of the people. The true answer includes inherent traits and learned skills; however, recognizing and embracing certain traits allows everyone to become a thought leader in their respective organization. Mastery of these skills enables the individual to become sought after in their specific field or industry and recognized as a credible source of insight.
Knowledge and expertise are the foundation of thought leadership backed by years of experience in the field and continuous learning. Thought leaders relentlessly pursue information and always crave learning and researching the latest developments and trends. Thought leaders also employ inclusive thinking as an integral part of developing the big picture. Their pursuit intends not to dissect the information but to evaluate and examine the ingredients that make the whole greater than the sum of its parts and the value it brings systemically to the organization.
A thought leader will transform their knowledge into visionary or innovative thinking to process a deep understanding and appreciation of the subject. The intent is to leverage forward-thinking and apply it to the business problem that creatively solves it through unique and impactful ways that challenge the status quo and conventional wisdom. Although the approach may take a higher degree of risk, the intent is grounded on sound principles that are built upon previous experience and meant to bring a fresh perspective to problem-solving in the work setting.
Communication and sharing ideas are vital to a thought leader’s success. Breaking down complex ideas and articulating them to an easily understood level allows the necessary buy-in and support of the organization. Insights are not limited to the work setting but can be found in the thought leader’s blogs, public speaking, and social media and recognized by industry peers and often the public.
Visionary leadership and influence over others to inspire change motivate a thought leader. Leading by example and showing a shared commitment to excellence and the success of the ideas and others are essential in making a long-lasting impact. The intent is to motivate individuals and the organization to adopt and follow the concept through to completion. The proposed idea might start as a small idea, but over time, it grows and expands across the business and is embraced and owned by the workforce as an inherent attribute that drives success to the organization.
Authenticity, integrity, and adaptability enable thought leaders to demonstrate their genuineness and transparency to achieve the desired outcomes ethically. Credibility and trust are inherent to who they are and what they advocate. Embracing change, openness to sharing and evolving ideas, and adjusting to prevailing change in a dynamic environment sets the thought leader apart through recognizing community ownership. A genuine thought leader shuns attention to oneself and shares the idea on behalf of others. The desired outcome is a selfless approach that can evolve with disruptive market and industry changes.
Thought leaders imbue a relatable and empathetic demeanor to others and the organization. Holding respect and dignity for others and acknowledging inclusivity as the critical source behind every successful plan enables the business to grow and prosper. Balancing what inherently makes a person unique and coupling that with an appreciation for everyone to thrive enables the aspiring thought leader to set the right example in the workplace and be willing to adapt to change and embrace the thoughts of others in doing what is right. Thought leadership starts with innovative and thoughtful communication and brings out the best in everyone to aspire and impact the business and the community it serves.