How Do You Become A Thought Leader?

How Do You Become A Thought Leader?

Every week I receive numerous invitations to attend some financial conference or webinar offered by a so-called “thought leader.” Have you ever wondered how one qualifies for this particular epithet? I searched Google for the topic “How to become a thought leader” and found dozens of articles. Most talked about domain expertise, motivational skills, and self-marketing strategies as fundamental for the role. That sounds like a lot of work if I wanted to become one. But maybe there’s a shortcut. Wouldn’t it be nice if one could just apply for the job at some company?

So I started looking around online. After all, you’d think all companies would want to have at least one or two thought leaders on their staffs. Alas, I couldn’t find any job title of “Thought Leader,” let alone any openings for such a position. Which led me to ponder that perhaps there are other jobs that better lend themselves to thought leadership.

Here are the job titles of those people in the financial services industry who have been introduced to me via email over the last month as thought leaders. Let’s see if we can find a common thread.

  • Chief U.S. Economist and Managing Director of Investment Research. This person sounds like a thought leader if only due to the length of his title.
  • CFA and Equity Analyst. These are good skills to have but I’m not sure they really qualify her for thought leadership.
  • Renowned Labor Economist. Wow! If he’s renowned he must be a thought leader.
  • Chief Global Investment Strategist. Yes, I would think a thought leader would be good at strategy.
  • Global Chief Economist. There’s that economist title again. And global as well.
  • Head of Research & Client Engagement. This one’s interesting. I understand the research part. But is there such a thing as a client engagement thought leader?
  • Chairman of Market and Investment Strategy. This must be a big company if someone on staff can be the chairman of something.
  • Founder and author. Just the opposite of the above; it must be a small company.
  • Senior Fellow and Professor of Economics. These are titles used by academics so this person is obviously associated with some school. I’d think any teacher is potentially a thought leader.

My takeaway from the above is that being an economist, having a global scope, and possessing some kind of leadership title (chief, head, senior fellow) appear to be key attributes qualifying a person for the role of thought leader, at least in the financial services industry. Unfortunately I only attended one of the above events so I have no way of knowing how many of the speakers actually demonstrated any thought leadership qualities.

I think I’ll forget about becoming a thought leader for the present.

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