Thought leadership is certainly not a new concept, at least not in the Indian context. It goes back centuries to the schools of ancient Indian rishis, where the students would be taught by experienced gurus and then asked to explore the subject through dialogue, debate, and discussion. However, coming to a more modern economic scenario, thought leaders are seasoned and experienced industry leaders whose opinions guide, influence, and inspire. Their views stimulate discussions and encourage conversations around important challenges that the industry may face or innovations that could transform business. This is essentially the spirit that thought leaders embody.
What is your thought leadership strategy? Clarifying your personal journey to becoming and being a successful thought leader involves relentless research, learning, and understanding the pulse of the industry. Some of the top organisational leaders in India spent decades working to establish their businesses and organizations as market leaders before taking on their thought leadership journey. While this is true, it must also be admitted that becoming a thought leader is a path to visibility, success, and establishing your own personal brand. Therefore, let us take a look at some of the guiding principles that can make your journey a fulfilling experience.
- Being heard – We read about top business leaders from most industries and even catch a quote from them in news articles, journals, and industry publications. But how many business leaders do we follow keenly for their views and opinions? Thought leaders work hard to establish their visibility, and this means actively engaging a broad audience. Thankfully there are several digital platforms available for you. Blogs, podcasts, and Social Media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn can help you reach millions worldwide. Anand Mahindra, the Chairman of the Mahindra Group, is the perfect example. After a long and illustrious career at the head of the conglomerate, his journey into thought leadership has established him as a go-to for a number of socio-economic issues, including industry insights.
- Being the Master – Being a master is a term that is quite open to interpretation. A master does not have all the answers but is one who is willing to pursue the questions and take challenges head-on. We live in an era of innovation and technology. This means having the humility to accept that evolution is a constant and that the next industry breakthrough may come from the ideas of a high-school kid. Being a thought leader allows you scope to encourage discussions and keeps you hungry to learn, no matter what the source.
- Disruption to Ground-breaking – When you read up about thought leadership strategies, you will often hear them referred to as disruptors. Well, in a sense, they are. Thought leaders challenge traditional practices and SOPs and look at ways to push the boundaries of innovation. Lets us look at some of the best empowering leaders who used the power of disruption to transform the industry. Sanjiv Bajaj, the Chairman and Managing Director of Bajaj, took the power of transformation and managed to turn the banking and finance sector around. He employed the power of tech solutions to build mobile applications and web portals that make financial products available to a large population without access to branches. Bajaj Finserv is now one of India’s leading NBFCs, with over 66 million customers.
- Patience is powerful – Like most important things in life, establishing yourself as a thought leader takes time. It is a painstaking process of putting your views out in public, being relentless in your pursuit of learning and innovation, bringing together industry experts and professionals and forging relationships that span geographies – all in the interest of the greater good. This also means that you may sometimes have to put industry interests ahead of business needs and consider the contributions to the industry, the economy, and the country. Know that you’ll need to be perseverant and patient while navigating your journey.
What is important here is to remember that thought leadership is more than just a journey for successful people. It is also a path to success – building your personal brand and making your opinions count.
A thought leader is one who has gained considerable expertise and experience in the industry and is now using these to inspire, guide and reinvent the basic paradigms on which businesses function. Your thought leadership strategy must involve building and connecting with an audience while learning about new developments in the field. A thought leader is a disrupters because they raise the benchmarks and the accountability of the businesses in the industry. But this also means bringing in fresh ideas, helping bolster the economy, and contributing to the greater good.