Rather than just having bright ideas or showing good leadership skills, being a thought leader in your industry requires time and dedication. It’s not simply a chance to have your name in lights or your 15 seconds of fame – being a thought leader has a lot to do with ‘being’ a thought leader.

Here we look at some practical things that a thought leader does – along with some hot tips that’ll help you if you’re a thought leader in training (T-LIT). You tell me – does the glove fit?

1. You have bags full of experience in your industry

First and foremost, you have put in the time (the hard yards) to be able to say that you have experience in your field. Being a thought leader means you are constantly developing your knowledge in your field. You achieve results and continue to make accomplishments where others may not be. Your body of work stands up to rigorous testing. You know your stuff!

Our tip for T-LITs*

Seek out possible awards, sponsorships, fellowships or prizes in your related field – then nominate yourself or request someone in your network to put you forward. If you don’t ask, you don’t receive.

2. Your online presence is robust

You have mastered the art of being everywhere at once. You are across every forum – YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and any social media platforms relevant to your industry.

You blog regularly and have many followers who read your content religiously. You don’t leave blogs sitting idle because you know that search engines favour fresh content and are more likely to put your website at the top of relevant search results. Your content is original and your ideas merit attention. Perhaps you blog for yourself, perhaps you write guest posts for popular and respected blogs in your field. You probably do both.

You likely have published works in your arsenal as well ­– articles you’ve written for industry journals and commentary you’ve made in traditional media streams like magazines and newspapers.

Our tip for T-LITs*

Get your blog on. Check out our tips for how to enhance your brand and industry authority through blog writing. Create original fodder for your social media aplenty. Getting a bit of material prepped and staggering publish dates is a good way to go – batching evergreen content can help make your online presence strong and healthy.

3. Public speaking is your jam

You speak in public. A lot. You’re not afraid to be heard because you believe your ideas are important and need to be spread. Your calendar is full of public speaking gigs at conferences, industry events and guest lectures at universities. You get your mug on telly commenting on a news stories related to your work. You have the future in mind and you plan on causing some disruption. You drive the conversation, rather than just participate. You command attention from that soapbox on which you stand.

Our tip for T-LITs*

Seek some help with your public speaking skills through somewhere like Toastmasters or investigate events held by TEDx. Volunteer to speak at networking events in your industry and reach out to journalists and let them know when you have relevant, exciting news to share.

4. You help others within your networking circles

Although you are a thought leader, you understand the importance of supporting those around you – oh, and that the karma train is a very real thing. By networking with like-minded peeps, connecting them with your existing networks and helping them with their opportunities, you know your positive actions will come back around.

You are a big believer in the idea that your interactions with others hold the key to your success (and vice versa). Effective networking and collaboration is what makes you highly respected by your colleagues and industry competitors. Good ol’ word-of-mouth promotion happens organically when you genuinely make an effort to help others.

Our tip for T-LITs*

Converse with your friends about your thoughts – flesh them out. And if your friends aren’t picking up what you’re laying down, seek your tribe out (try Hive, BNI or Business Chicks). Once you find your networking circles, make yourself useful. If you help raise others to success, you too will succeed (it’s a give–take scenario).

5. You keep on keepin’ on

The key to it all, really, is to broadcast your message – blogs, articles, public speaking – get that finger in every pie! Let people know what you know! As a thought leader you inspire positive change and share your knowledge in an effort to make your industry and your community a better place. It’s a long-term commitment kinda thing.

Our tip for T-LITs*

Keep learning. There are ample opportunities to continue your training in your industry. You might like to do some study online (check out Mashable’s list of free classes), or head back to uni. Expand your own mind continuously in order to expand the minds of others. Research some people in your field that you look to for inspiration and see how they do things (try Brain Pickings perhaps or The School of Life).

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