Dear Liz,

What is a “thought leader?” I hear the phrase “thought leader” thrown around a lot at my job.

Is a thought leader the same as an expert? I have a lot of opinions but I wouldn’t say I’m an expert in anything. I don’t have advanced degrees or anything like that.

If I want to become a thought leader, how can I do it? The idea seems appealing, but also scary!

Thanks Liz –


Dear Roberta,

A thought leader is anyone who has ideas they want to share with a wider audience than their family and friends.

A thought leader is someone who writes articles or blog posts, speaks in public, records and publishes podcasts or reaches their audience in another way.

Thought leaders share their own ideas, versus things they learned from someone else.

When I started writing articles for publication and speaking to groups years ago, it was harder than it is now to begin a thought leadership career. That’s because social media and other tools that allow budding thought leaders to grow their audiences did not exist back then.

Now it is easy to become a thought leader. If you have ideas you want to share, there is no reason not to step onto your thought leadership path, and see where it takes you!

People choose to become thought leaders for many reasons. Here are some of them:

  • To establish a brand and reputation as an expert in a certain topic.
  • To raise their professional visibility and credibility — to support their career goals.
  • To enhance their consulting or coaching practice.
  • To bring their message to people outside their geographical area, and potentially all over the world.
  • To add an income stream alongside their “day job,” or to replace their day job one day.
  • To share ideas with other thought leaders and help to shape policy and/or public opinion.
  • To follow their heart by sharing their personal beliefs or experiences with other people who may benefit from them.
  • To earn money from their content.
  • To grow their voice and their confidence — and become an advisor or resource to thousands or millions of people.

You do not have to be a subject matter expert to become a thought leader.

You only have to have a message to share.

How do you begin your thought leadership journey? The first step is to decide what you want from your thought leadership efforts. Do you want to become an international keynote speaker? Do you want to begin publishing articles or blog posts to make more people aware of your consulting practice, or to position yourself for a step up in your career?

Do you want to add a thought leadership revenue stream to your income? These are the questions to ask yourself. Your first step is to decide what you want as a thought leader — and what you want to bring about in the world by sharing your ideas with others.

Once you are clear on your vision, your next step is to begin refining your ideas and sharing them. You can start simply, for instance by blogging on LinkedIn. Don’t get frustrated if your initial posts don’t get a lot of page views. Keep writing, anyway. Your patience will pay off!

If you want to be a public speaker, you can begin recording podcasts or videos and publicizing them. It’s amazing how much you can learn about your own opinions by sharing them with other people.

I didn’t know exactly how I felt about dozens of scores of workplace issues until I was prompted by queries from readers to write about those topics. As I wrote, I realized that my answers to daily job search, career and leadership issues all came from a worldview that I was passionate about even though I had never articulated that worldview before.

Eventually my views on job search, leadership, careers, and the need to reinvent work for people coalesced into the Human Workplace movement. Millions of people who share the same views got involved. That’s what can happen when you step through your fear of speaking up. The minute you speak, you find out that lots of other people feel the same way you do.

There are seven billion of us on the planet. No matter what you write or speak about, other people will resonate with your message — but only if they can hear it!

Don’t be afraid to step into your power as a thought leader. It might be the best step you can take in 2020!