Do you want to be your company’s recognized expert in big data, business architecture, technology trends, negotiation, or just about anything else? With a little work, it isn’t all that hard to do.
First, before you start
What is a thought leader? We typically think of thought leaders as the small number of people who have deep understanding on a singular topic or a small number of related topics in areas of emerging interest. They have achieved recognition by performing research, writing books, or having unique experiences. In many cases, they have created the field in which they are the expert. It is tremendously difficult to become a worldwide thought leader – but it is relatively simple to become one within your company. Why? Other experts have done all the heavy lifting. All you have to do is curate their knowledge and add a little local context. Follow these three simple steps to become your company’s expert on a topic you are interested in.
Step 1: Laser focus your learning
How much time do you spend on the following activities: reading books (any books), whitepapers, blogs, newspapers, magazines, journals, and trade magazines; watching videos such as YouTube, TED, television, etc.; attending webinars, vendor meetings, user community meetings, seminars, or conferences; and just surfing the web? When you combine the time you spend on these activities you will find that you spend a significant amount of time learning and being entertained. Take just half of this time and focus it on the topic you want to be a thought leader in and you will be surprised at how much you will learn in a very short while.
Step 2: Share what you know
To become in internal expert, people have to recognize that you know something. Talk it up! Start by sharing what you are leaning in informal conversations whenever the opportunity arises. Give people interesting tidbits – don’t bore them with the details. Arrange lunch-and-learn sessions where you present the big picture of your domain adding just enough context to show people why they should care about it. Use demonstrations when appropriate, as they are much more powerful than presentations. Write a whitepaper and circulate it broadly. Don’t be discouraged if you get little immediate interest. Just promoting your activities lets people know you know something.
Step 3: Align interests
As people in your organization become interested in your topic, start bringing them together. Form and facilitate discussion groups. Don’t dominate. Let everyone speak before you. This lets you assess what others know that you need to learn about as well as positions you to have the last, and most definitive word. Leverage other’s time by organizing collaborative research on the topics. Summarize the findings giving everyone ample credit for the work they contributed. Start a community of practice to have a regular forum for sharing information about your topic. Communities of practice can be very powerful in bringing an organization together on non-mainstream topics. You can find an excellent reference here: Cultivating Communities of Practice.
You don’t have to know everything. You just want to be in the center of everything that is happening.
The bottom line:_______________________________________________________________________________________________
Becoming a though leader is all about capturing mindshare. Be intentional. You can become a recognized thought leader by applying a good dose of discipline and a little self-promotion. When others start to become interested in your topic, they will come to you first as the person in the know, ensuring that you stay on top of internal activities and continue to grow your knowledge and reputation.