Thought leaders are people who are recognized as an authority in their fields of expertise. When you want to learn something on the subject in question, these are the people you go to talk to – these are the ones whose opinions are much more valued than others. You can understand the value that thought leaders provide, but now the next step is…how do you actually identify which people are thought leaders? Here are the first things I look for when trying to identify if they’re a thought leader.
Are They Passionate?
For me, the immediate characteristic I look for when identifying a thought leader is their passion for the field that they work in. Way more often than not, people who are passionate about a subject are also incredibly knowledgeable about that subject. These are the people who are excited to discuss the ins and outs of their topic of expertise and gleefully stay up all night talking about new ideas and theories relating to it. The importance of continuing education shows up here – because they have an unrivaled passion, they’re likely to know about all the latest happenings regarding their field of expertise.
Can They Talk to and Identify with the Layman?
A thought leader should be able to have the ability to speak with virtually anyone about the topic they’re knowledgeable about. While there’s undoubtedly endless amounts of information circling through their brain at warp speeds, these people shouldn’t just be able to communicate this through their company culture and jargon. They should also have the ability to convey this info to an interested party in simpler terms so that they’ll understand and have a grasp on the subject. These people aren’t only skillful at explaining this information, but it’s also important that they can come off as natural and trustworthy so their audience will believe what they hear.
Do They See the Big Picture?
While having an immense amount of knowledge on the subject is important (very, very important!), they also need to be able to look beyond that as well. It’s simply not enough to just be an expert in their field; they must also understand the industry or landscape they’re a part of. As a forward-looking thinker, a thought leader must understand the direction the organization and the field are heading, push the boundaries, and press forward.
Thought leaders have many different traits and variations. These are just some of the more common ones. I encourage you to think of what you imagine a thought leader to be like in your field.