Ask.com says that a thought leader is an individual or firm that is recognized as an authority in a specialized field and whose expertise is sought and often rewarded. In a world where information is often it's own currency, thought leaders are seen as a resource because in order to earn that status, they have made a career of focusing on their primary expertise.
Being a thought leader has cachet and, according to Malcolm Gladwell, if you spend 10,000 hours focused on one thing, then you’ll end up being an expert at it.
Being a thought leader also takes focus, and in today’s world, that is often a challenge. Business owners are looking for the next big thing, rather than owning their one thing. However, when you do, you have the potential to lead and help shift the thinking of others. Many of us would strive for this, but, how do you know if you are actually leading others in the way they think and behave?
Here are five signs that you may be an emerging or existing thought leader:
1) You have a unique perspective on something universal
There are thousands of ways to catalyze change. You have a unique idea that seems to click with a certain group of people and help them move forward. Think about how many chefs there are. Yet, we never tire of trying new foods. A chef focusing on his or her genius and cultivating it becomes legendary. Consider Mario Batali. He stays true to his core strength -- simple Italian food with exceptional ingredients. He doesn’t stray from that, and as a result, he continues to own the Italian cuisine space in New York.
2) You are driven to serve the world or people in some way.
You are not solely working to make money. You are driven by a higher purpose and it is all about changing the world in some way. You get the most satisfaction from seeing change occur as a result of your work. Richard Branson said in a recent article that “My professional inspiration has no separation from my personal inspiration: It is people who will stop at nothing to make a positive difference to other people’s lives.”
3) You are highly motivated and inspire others with your enthusiasm.
Your mission is clear, and over time it fuels you to continue to evolve. Other random projects don’t sidetrack you because you are so passionate about your mission. In fact, you turn down other opportunities because you don’t want to lose steam on the work that you are doing. Think of Tony Robbins -- his energy is infectious and his events are spell-binding. He has the ability to shift people’s thinking in a matter of hours. He is all about transformation and is tireless in his enthusiasm for his work. I had the opportunity to meet him one-on-one, and was immediately drawn to his intense focus. You can read my article about my participation in a 100-person Tony Robbins Platinum event in Scotland a few years ago.
4) You are inspired by expansiveness but you are focused on one thing.
You have always been driven toward doing something big. You may not be able to accurately explain why, it’s just always been that way. “Big” excites you and making an impact is a thrill. The key is that the impact is connected to you and feels authentic. If not, then you immediately lose motivation. Can you imagine Suze Ormone not working as money expert? Can you imagine Oprah not helping others having a great life? No, because they are thought leaders that have been focused on their one thing, for decades. They own their space and will for as long as they are around.
5) You love people.
You see people as a laboratory. You are constantly learning from them and are more interested in hearing their stories than sharing your own. As someone who is trying to create change in other peoples lives, you are more interested in how people think, live, and experience life, because it helps you get more connected to the challenges they are facing in regards to your mission.
Born as a book, Delivering Happiness is now a culture coachsultancy and a movement on a mission to inspire passion + purpose in workplaces around the world.
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