What is a thought leader? How do you get to be one? Do you just give yourself the title or do you have to do something to earn it? Sounds a bit Orwellian, doesn’t it, as if it might have come straight from the pages of Nineteen Eighty Four? So is that what it is – someone who controls other’s thoughts or thinking? Or is it someone who takes your mind for a walk, a gentle wander to help you to venture further than you normally might with your thinking?
According to Forbes, thought leaders “intrigue, challenge, and inspire”.
Who have you been reading recently that might be described as a thought leader? Someone who blogs on topical matters, or the latest bestselling non-fiction author, or a newspaper journalist who has uncovered an intriguing story and opens our eyes and our thinking to other possibilities? Maybe a highly successful business mogul who shares the secrets of their success, or a leading authority in their field, an expert in their profession? What have you been reading that has inspired or challenged you?
And how did the author manage to ‘lead your thoughts’? How does the process actually work? How do you write something so powerful that it can ‘lead’ people to think differently? Wouldn’t you like to be able to do that too? Imagine writing something that leaves the reader with a lingering thought, a point to ponder, a tantalizing glimpse, a ‘what if…” How cool would that be?
What if I told you that there is a way to do it – for anyone who puts pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard? That there’s a ‘formula’ which you can use to help others to reflect and think more deeply about what you are writing about? What if it isn’t just down to chance and it can be planned and drafted out, just like they teach you to do in school when writing an essay – would you be interested in trying it out? Would you be interested in using it as a scaffold for a blog or an article? Would you be willing to give it a go?
Adults learn best when they feel safe.
It turns out that the best way to help adults to develop their thinking, and consequently learning is just a matter of logical steps. Who would have thought it? 7 small steps to help readers to think differently; 7 steps to write an article to prompt thinking; 7 steps for you to start writing like a thought leader.
It’s that easy.
So how do you do it? How do you construct your blog, to help others to think more deeply? What do you do with your ideas and your content? How do you start to write like a ‘thought leader’?
Step 1. Start with a clear focus or hook – what the blog or article is about – reel your readers in with the first few words with something that they are familiar with. What grabs your attention – a question, a statistic or a staggering topical fact?
Step 2. Talk or ask about their experience in this matter – invite your readers to think about something that is relevant to them.
Step 3. Ask a provocative question about their experience in this matter – get them to reflect on their experience rather than just think about it.
Step 4. Introduce some new thinking or your ideas on this matter – communicate it clearly and succinctly.
Step 5. Help your reader to interpret this new thinking, this new information; you might encourage them to think laterally here – what’s it like that you know already? How does it fit with what you know?
Step 6. Encourage your reader to try it out, to experiment with this new information – create a scenario where you invite them to use it in a way that’s relevant to them.
Step 7. You might also encourage your reader to evaluate it by imagining ‘what if’ they did use it, or if they did integrate it into their lives – what difference might it make? How might they feel if they took that step?
So that’s it – 7 steps to get from the bottom of the staircase to the top of the pile; 7 steps to thought leadership writing success. How does it work then? Well, if you make your reader feel safe and comfortable by starting your writing with something that they are familiar with, you start in their comfort zone. By asking them to reflect on their experience, you gradually start to move their thinking by stretching the boundaries of that comfort zone. And by introducing some new knowledge to them while they are still feeling relatively safe, you encourage them to make that zone even bigger; you might even tempt them to raise their head above the parapet and look over the horizon of their cozy bubble to see what else might be out there – to see a different perspective. You might just have built their courage enough to tempt them to create some completely new ideas, or thoughts of their own – to feel brave enough to step out of their comfort zone and into a resourceful and creative zone. How good would that feel; to be able to help others to see beyond ‘black and white’ thinking, to illuminate a whole new world of original thought; to help others to feel cognitively courageous?
You might want to try it out next time you blog, or next time you write an article for a magazine or a newsletter, or maybe even for the next chapter in your book. Just imagine what it would feel like to be able to inspire others with your writing. You do want to inspire others, don’t you? What type of person wouldn’t want to be helpful, motivational and encouraging? What type of leader wouldn’t want to build relationships?
Even if you are just writing for yourself, surely you want to be ‘intrigued, challenged and inspired’? Don’t you want to get to know yourself a bit better too?
As Warren Bennis said
“Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself.”