The Eight Key Qualities of Thought Leaders

Jun 20, 2016

By Sue O'Keefe

Thought Leadership. The term conjures up images of Ted Talks, keynote presentations, big stages, book tours… It may seem like an attractive proposition, being a Thought Leader… but do you really have what it takes? Do you even want to be a Thought Leader?

Yes? Let’s take a closer look at the eight key characteristics of Thought Leaders and see if you—or someone you know—has what it takes:

  1. Vision. Thought Leaders are in tune with the state of things right now. They also have a strong sense of where they need to go, and an ability to articulate what it takes to make the journey from here to there. This ability enables Thought Leaders to lead strong teams and galvanize large groups of people to work together towards a common goal.
  2. Leadership. Thought Leaders work to solve problems by exploring many ideas. They don’t limit themselves to conventional methods or popular notions. They don’t let a fear of failure stop them from exercising their full powers of imagination and experimentation.
  1. Courageousness. Thought Leaders are not afraid of being controversial. They understand that new ideas are sometimes difficult for people to accept. They know that the more disruptive the concept, the more they are likely to encounter resistance. But this doesn’t stop them. They have confidence in their vision and embrace the opportunity to discuss, argue and defend their position—even alter it, if they are properly convinced to do so!
  1. Passion. Thought Leaders understand how to make passionate arguments to support their vision, because they believe in it so deeply. They understand how to deal with detractors by presenting solid counter-arguments even as they consider other opinions.
  1. Command. Thought Leaders command attention, because they understand how to present their ideas in a way that is tailored to their specific audience. They know how to break their ideas up into their simplest components and put them together in just the right way, depending on who they are addressing. Their mental agility and flexibility place them a cut above other speakers and presenters, as they understand how to directly connect with many different types of people.
  1. Action-oriented. Thought Leaders understand how to go from ideas to execution. They have a clear idea of the steps it takes to implement their concepts and an ability to delegate and drive results. In short, they know how to get things done.
  1. Communication. Thought Leaders are both great speakers as well as excellent listeners. They communicate their ideas with passion and creativity. Their conviction comes across as genuine, because it is! They are also great listeners, because they understand that they have something to gain from every interaction, be it with a supporter or a detractor. Constantly iterating, they incorporate new points into their arguments to make them stronger with each presentation.
  1. Connected. Thought Leaders have mastered the art of connecting with the right people to cultivate a powerful follower base. They use concise language, saying just enough to hit their points without pushing too hard. They understand their natural audience, and how to connect with them in a way that is authentic and capable of generating growth beyond the usual suspects.

Do you or someone on your team have what it takes to be a Thought Leader? If you’re interested in learning more about Thought Leadership and what it takes to cultivate the skills necessary to fill that role, then check out our latest white paper, “So You Want to Be a Thought Leader…”

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Topics: Thought Leadership