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Saturday, June 19, 2021

Chief Executive Insights

5 traits influential thought leaders have that make them stand out in their industries.

Margaret Olatunbosun

Thought leadership is known to many executives and leaders to increase brand authority and grow your platform. However, most people hesitate when it comes to sharing their expertise with others. Sometimes, this stems from the fear that they don’t think they possess the “qualifying traits” to become a thought leader.

In most cases, this fear disguises itself as low self-esteem, the fear of appearing ignorant or less accomplished– the idea that you think you need to know so much before you can build a thought leadership platform worthy of emulation.

But here’s the thing: unless you intend to share a well-researched and peer-reviewed article, you don’t need groundbreaking scientific evidence to influence others positively. You don’t need months or weeks of preparation to share your ideas on ‘cutting edge’ information in the industry.

With that said, these are 5 traits influential thought leaders have that make them stand out in their industries.

1) Influential thought leaders are excellent communicators.

You don’t have to be a great public speaker to influence others. However, what you do need are ways to communicate original ideas in ways that others can understand. You need to know how to take the knowledge you’ve acquired from years of experience and distill them into easy-to-digest actionable tips.

But first, ask yourself what your preferred method is for sharing your thoughts with others.

If you possess writing skills, writing doesn’t have to be a huge time suck for you. Unless the people you seek to influence love to consume longer pieces of content, most leaders––and other people who have busy lives do not have time for 3,000+ word articles. They want rare insight, and they want them in the time it takes to finish lunch or wrap up a phone conversation.

On the other hand, if speaking is more accessible for you, do it. If audio recordings need to be longer, consider your target audience––whether they appreciate the format of such offering and whether you have interestingly presented your thoughts.

2) They have a high level of personal awareness. 

They understand their emotions, how it impacts them, and the people around them. They understand the nuances of high performance and vulnerability and how to bridge the gap that exists between the two concepts.

You can start by becoming aware of your strengths and weaknesses and knowing how to leverage both. The good thing is that whether you are an introvert, extrovert, or an ambivert, you will not be locked into one leadership style without ways to leverage what you think are your weaknesses.

Leaders who positively influence others also know that personality isn’t permanent and that understanding oneself may take decades to unravel. They understand that it isn’t solely about how you think you should respond to crises or disruption. Instead, it is who you become when facing challenges that take you out of your comfort zone.

Of course, this is just the surface level of what personal awareness entails. However, this small amount of knowledge is a good starting point.

3) They are excellent strategists.

They understand that they may not need to sell immediately and that nurturing a blossoming relationship with their audience is what does the selling. When these leaders eventually have to make a deal, they don’t need to haggle over prices or copy their competitors; they effortlessly close the sale.

Excellent strategic skills can also help you shape the delivery of your message to match the tone of current affairs in your community. You begin to understand that it’s not just about setting short- and long-term financial goals; it’s about building a brand that is aware of the relevance of social responsibility.

When you build this much-coveted know-like-trust factor with your audience, you make yourself difficult to clone. This successfully raises your profile and makes influencing others come naturally.

4) They are critical yet compassionate.

Most leaders face the problem of not knowing if being direct and demanding will drive down morale among employees and followers. Conversely, some feel that if they are too lenient, this may promote the wrong message that they have low expectations.

It is not one or the other. You don’t have to choose. Criticism is necessary for growth, and you should offer critiques when necessary. But in the same vein, you must temper this with compassion. Compassion enhances your ability to understand why people behave the way they do and improves the communication between you and your followers.

Yes, you possess insights that are necessary to disrupt your industry and build a loyal following. But you can be demanding and compassionate at the same time.

5) They are visionary.

It’s safe to say that almost every leader knows the word visionary. But how many leaders genuinely exemplify what it means to be visionary?

It’s not enough to rely on the depth of your knowledge and lived experiences. Visionary leaders are okay with acknowledging that they don’t have all the answers but are willing to build something concrete out of their imagination. Their dreams may seem almost magical, illogical, even impractical sometimes.

But they are resolute and are comfortable with developing others into leaders who can embrace their novel ideas. These leaders know that they cannot keep all their knowledge to themselves. They are constantly looking for ways to expand their reach so that they can leave their best legacies behind.

This list isn’t definitive. But it provides a bird’s eye view of what it takes to be an effective leader in today’s influencer space.


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Margaret Olatunbosun
Margaret Olatunbosun is the founder of Potter & Ink LLC, a personal brand and content strategy studio dedicated to helping executives and entrepreneurs build and leverage profitable personal brands to enroll high-paying clients into their coaching and consulting programs.

Margaret Olatunbosun is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow her on LinkedIn.