As an aspirational manager, one of the best things you can do for your career is to position yourself as a thought leader in your field. However, with so many professionals publishing articles, blogs, and e-books on a variety of topics, how can you stand out from the crowd?The first thing to keep in mind is what a thought leader actually does: develop and communicate new, unique insights into a specific topic. By doing this, he or she inspires others to think about aspects of things they otherwise wouldn’t have noticed or to think about things in a different manner than they’re accustomed to.The keyword in all of this is “unique.” In order to make an impact, your opinions need to be distinctly yours. In order to develop and communicate your own unique concepts, adopt these seven habits of highly successful thought leaders:1. Maintain a narrow focus of expertise. The most effective thought leaders are those who limit their focus to a relatively small area of expertise that they can explore in depth. By maintaining a narrow focus, they avoid spreading their energy and thought patterns too thin while ensuring they have the attention and time to dive as deeply as possible into their one specialty.
2. Learn to say “no.” In his American Express Open Forum article titled “6 Productivity Habits of Top Thought Leaders,” Mike Michalowicz explains that the most successful thought leaders don’t become involved with projects that don’t support their brand. This can mean anything from not endorsing a book to declining an invitation to speak at an event that’s not directly related to their area of expertise. By learning to say “no,” you’re ensuring that you maintain your focus at all times.
3. Make sure to give talks in person. Hypothetically, it’s possible to develop watertight theories all by yourself. However, for most of us, discussion either solidifies our convictions or reveals new information that can help us fine-tune our insights—especially when it comes to the ever-developing world of business. By giving talks at conferences and other industry events, you open yourself up to new information you might otherwise not come across.
4. Invite discussion and opposing opinions. When somebody disagrees with you, don’t shut him or her down. Instead, view it as an opportunity to re-examine your hypothesis. If the other person brings new insights to the mix, you could learn something that can help you advance your own thoughts. If not, you simply become more adept at explaining the rationale behind your opinions.
5. Be objective. As Terence Jackson, Ph.D. points out in his LinkedIn article “Eight Habits of Highly Effective Leader Thinkers,” you’ll make more interesting connections and get better insights if you can suspend your emotions, judgment, and ego while developing or discussing theories. Apply the concept of critical thinking to examine notions from all angles, and be prepared to consider new thoughts, however irrelevant they may seem. By remaining open and objective, you’ll enable yourself to consider things from all angles, which in turn can lead to exciting new insights.
6. Dare to be unconventional. Oftentimes, the most innovative insights come from thinking outside of the box. When developing your theories, allow yourself to get creative and even playful. You don’t have to share any concepts until they’re fully worked out, so allow yourself to play around with different angles and viewpoints.
7. Protect your time. Though it’s undeniably important to meet with other professionals and discuss industry-related topics with them, you need enough time to keep studying, reading, and developing new concepts. Find the balance between socializing and working that maximizes your productivity, and use it to your best advantage.Becoming a thought leader in your field takes dedication, hard work, and perseverance. By learning these seven habits of successful thought leaders, you can train yourself to open your mind to new possibilities that can form the foundation for useful, actionable insights. And these insights in turn can help advance the overall knowledge in your field of expertise.