As the content partner and Editor of a thought leadership setup, I often come in contact with thought leaders who present a vast ocean of insights, information and knowledge in their field. It would be imperative to not only listen, but to also assimilate and present their thoughts in a manner that will cater to one relevant audience at a time. Whether you are discussing design, technique, philosophy or any other matter, it is imperative to structure each question with plenty of research and present the answer in context of the audience you are catering to.
I began by asking: Is thought leadership a skill? As an editor and writer who covers thought leadership subjects, I have understood information and knowledge to be the two pillars of the thought leadership content niche. How you understand the two will influence how you present the various aspects of the precious and thought provoking words that come from the mind of a thought leader. Why do people follow every word written by and about a thought leader? To learn something new. So yes, thought leadership is ALSO a skill.
On the world wide web, we have a number of way of finding information and learning new things. While learning new things would be a part of the overall knowledge commerce industry, getting information is a completely different thing. Many of us tend to confuse the two. Knowledge would be to learn something new, while information would be the details that we access for a quick overview of a certain area. While knowledge can be garnered with the help of online courses and webinars, information is a matter of running a key phrase or question through a search engine. Yet, between the two, there are a number of ways in which we can learn more about the ways in which people apply knowledge – about the skill called Thought Leadership.
Thought leadership is a gamut of knowledge that is presented in a practical way to reflect the philosophy driving a certain business or brand within an industry. More often than not, thought leaders are known to disrupt the way their industries work with path breaking ideas or even a unique way of doing the same thing. The best thing about thought leadership is that is shows you a three dimensional way of doing things – one that has been tried and tested by the experts, no less!
This area is thought leadership. With a number of interactions in the past few months, I have managed to learn that interacting with thought leaders can teach you many things, apart from their core thinking and philosophy. And here are some of my key takeaways:
- Organization is Key: When you are looking to learn from a thought leader and from their style of thought leadership, you need to be prepared. Organizing your thoughts and your questions as well as the information that you already have will be beneficial since you will be able to fill in many gaps between theory and practice – and then some! Organizing your thoughts, resources and exactly what you want to learn and why, would be key towards forming meaningful takeaways and interactions.
- Choose the right Thought Leader: When you think of your industry and you want to grow in that space, you would automatically gravitate towards someone who has done well in the same sphere. Yet, this is not always necessary when you are writing about thought leadership. You can choose someone who has an inspiring philosophy when it comes to design in technology even if you are in a creative field. Or, you can choose to interview a few people who believe in being a big fish in a small pond, irrespective of their industry and the competition. The philosophy is what matters most. Be creative in your approach to be creative in your presentation.
- Be Open: I say this because I found many related topics for articles when I was in the middle of research on a single thought leader and their style of thought leadership. Also, many times, when I was conducting research to frame a questionnaire for a few thought leaders, I found a common thread of thought that helped me understand what a good, related article or series of articles would be. This helped me find more and more thought leaders who could be potential subjects.
- Be Specific: I won’t lie – like many people, I was slightly hesitant to approach CEOs and founders of companies. Yet, when I sent a short and specific message that told them what I do, what my article is all about, and how I can position them in the article, rounding it up with a request for an interview – I mostly got a good number of positive and prompt responses that helped me understand what my thought leadership strategy should be!
- Use a Good Mix of Questions: When I used a good mix of open ended and close ended, specific questions, I found that I got some really great answers in a precise and succinct manner that also showed I had not wasted anyone’s time or my own efforts. Again, you need research to frame just the right questions for relevant findings and insights on thought leadership!
Knowing what you want to learn and what kind of information you need for it, is very important when it comes to approaching people and asking them the right questions for thought leadership content. This would lead to fruitful and memorable interactions with thought leaders.