10 Key Characteristics Every Thought Leader Should Possess

Are you a Thought Leader, or looking for ways to cultivate a Thought Leader inside your company? It’s not as easy as it sounds! While some people seem to be born with Thought Leadership skills because they have a constant flow of good ideas, they’re actually more likely demonstrating leadership skills.

Thought Leadership is a lot more than just having good ideas; it’s being able to take those forward-looking thoughts and turn them into action, and from those actions, driving results across the business. Then it’s the ability to develop and foster a dedicated base of followers to help them replicate and scale those ideas so they deliver measurable results to the business. When a person’s words are reinforced by action, and people believe it, they win credibility, respect, and yes, Thought Leadership status.

So what are some of the key characteristics of Thought Leaders? For starters:

  1. They have original thought. Thought Leaders aren’t “me-too” followers. They aren’t boxed in by conventional thinking. They are constantly wondering “What if…? How can I solve this problem? How can I make this particular thing better?” They also realize that every idea they have isn’t necessarily a great one and are willing to let go of ideas that don’t pass muster.
  2. They have a clear vision about the way things need to be and have the ability to not just look at tomorrow but also have the ability to look several years down the road with clarity. They are then able to articulate that vision in a clear, compelling way that sounds completely obvious to their followers and the marketplace as a whole. They know who to task with execution to put those ideas into action, and from there, drive results.
  3. They are not afraid of being controversial, but they don’t naturally seek out controversy. Rather it is the byproduct of the forward-thinking nature of their ideas and vision.
  4. They are passionate about their ideas and know how to quickly make arguments to back their vision. They also take into consideration counterpoints and know how to skillfully address detractors.
  5. They are articulate and can speak with passion and creativity about their idea or vision. They know how to put ideas to paper but are equally adept at discussing topics off the cuff because of their knowledge and passion for their area of expertise.
  6. However, equally important, they are good listeners. They listen to supporters and detractors and learn from them, quickly incorporating good points (pro and con) into their vernacular.
  7. They command attention. A Thought Leader can talk to any person at any level because they naturally are able to break down ideas into their most common tenets and put them back together appropriately for the right audience. This trait is not as simple as turning engineering speak into common language; many subject matter experts find that easy to do. Thought Leaders in many cases just naturally think in this manner, and it shows in the way they are able to share their ideas to multiple audiences.
  8. They generally make every word count. In their public personas, Thought Leaders typically will not “over talk” a subject—they know that every word has purpose.
  9. They continuously cultivate their follower base. They know the right people and make sure the right people know them.
  10. They have an excellent marketing communications team behind them to help them amplify their natural abilities. The team can find unique ways to draw out the Thought Leaders in ways that help them hone their messages and deliver coverage that makes them sought after for interviews, keynote addresses, contributed columns, and more.

As you can probably guess, a Thought Leader is a well-rounded person, comfortable with being the center of attention. It’s not a job for everyone, so when pursuing Thought Leadership status for your executives, ensure you have identified the right person with the right characteristics to put your company on a path to success.

Want to learn more about how to cultivate Thought Leadership? Download Calysto’s white paper or contact Marissa Evans.

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