Thought leadership is a common buzzword in many workplaces and you might even cringe at the term. Especially now, as more people like to claim that title on social media without any real backup.

And unfortunately, the term “thought leader” has also started to become a word tied with many other eye-rolling titles like “guru” or “master.”

Hint, if you are self-proclaimed then you probably are not either of those terms.

And while it may be a somewhat overused term to hear, thought leadership is still important than ever before and it also matters to your business.

But there are still many common misconceptions that hinder true thought leader success.

Thought Leader

What is Thought Leadership?

If you are reading this article, you probably have a pretty good idea to what thought leadership is and why it matters. But, it’s important to still have a clear definition.

Feel free to skip ahead to the next section.

The concept of a thought leader or thought leadership has definitely evolved over the years. People all have a various take on what it means to them, but generally, they all overlap in some way.

Thought leaders are go-to people in their field of expertise, that have the insight, knowledge, and experience to hold the highest credibility. They are trusted sources who share innovative ideas, expand on past ideas with their own vision, and invoke conversations and engagement among their peers.

With content and social media being so popular and prevalent, thought leadership has started to evolve into a form of content marketing, where you share insights, articles, and your thoughts to targeted audiences.

Debunking Thought Leadership Myths

Below are six of the most prevalent myths that permeate the corporate culture and affect employees who want to be thought leaders in their respective industries.

1. You Need to Know it All

Don’t ever be afraid to admit you aren’t sure or have to check on the answer to a question. It is more important to be accurate than to spout some false information because you are afraid to admit you don’t know.

Always having an answer will actually stifle the collaborative process and hurt your rep among peers.

2. Every Thought Presented is Original

Thought leaders typically have an unusual approach to their profession, but they don’t makeup everything they think, say and believe. The best thought leaders are those who also utilize what others have presented and utilize this advantage to better see the landscape before them.

You shouldn’t feel pressured to make every thought seem like your own, but give credit where credit is due. Take pride in presenting those who have influenced your journey and ideas.

3. Leaders Are Only at the Top

Leader is not another word for “executive,” but it is a term that stands on its own. Whether you are at the top of the totem pole or not, you can be seen as a thought leader to your audience.

Too many “bottom-tier” employees who have valuable things to share hold back because they don’t feel worthy of being a thought leader. This is a myth: thought leaders can be found anywhere and only having one leader as the face for your company can actually put the company in a tight spot if a mistake is made.

In fact, even if you are an entry level or junior level employee, you can have insightful things to share that will be more relatable to a wider audience.

4. You Must be an Extrovert

When you probably first think of a thought leader, you think of someone very expressive and outgoing. Many are, but you don’t have to be an extrovert to be successful as a thought leader.

Some of the best thought leaders in our history were introverted artistic types. Utilize your strengths and don’t feel pressured to be someone you’re not. Being an author content, writer, researcher, and social media can allow you to get your thoughts out without being an outgoing person.

5. Present Content and Don’t Worry About Building Relationships

Professionals who want to be thought leaders can sometimes leave relationships hanging in the balance. Valuable content can help you build relationships, but those relationships aren’t cultivated without intention and dedication.

If you are rushing to produce content and self-promote, while failing to nurture relationships, then you are too self-absorbed to be a true thought leader.

Thought leaders are really there to provide insight and help to their audience. If you are constantly self-promoting or ignoring the hard work of cultivating relationships, then you aren’t truly acting in the best interest of your audience and it will be apparent.

6. Thought Leaders Must be Liked

Liability is not necessarily equivalent to powerful leadership. Certain stereotype violations, particularly successful women in high positions, sometimes achieve lower likability scores based on a perception or expectation held by the general public.

Thought leaders need to strive for respect and trustworthiness instead. A leader needs to be a person who offers sound judgment and opinions that can be respected.

Why Thought Leadership Content Matters

Your company should be not only focusing on content but the quality of the content. It matters for your executives, it matters for attracting your target audience, and it matters to employees looking to share great content with their insights.

Great content gets engagement, it builds trust, and not only does your team become thought leaders, but your brand becomes the go-to for expertise.

Here are some stats that prove the value:

  • 39% of C-suite execs and decision makers said thought leadership content had influenced them to ask a vendor to participate in the RFP process, and 47% said such content had a direct impact on awarding business. (source)
  • 49% of B2B buyers said their opinion of a company had decreased after reading poor quality content, and a third had removed a company from consideration based on its thought leadership output. (source)
  • About 50% of B2B marketers believe thought leadership builds trust in their organization. But among actual buyers, that number is more like 83%. (source)
  • 75% of business leaders will follow someone based on their thought leadership material, 60% said that they would stop following someone after reading their thought leadership pieces. (source)

Thought leadership content and marketing is not new, yet can be neglected or not really a focused strategy. In this extremely digital and social age, your company and employees have an opportunity to be seen as thought leaders with high-quality content.

Learn how to build your company brand by transforming your company employees into thought leaders. Download your guide.