In research for my upcoming book on thought leadership, I recognized just how personal the issue has become.

While companies now want to be recognized for their insights and perspectives, the term “thought leadership” is perhaps most commonly used in press releases announcing the arrival of some new executive. In other words, your career elevation depends on being perceived as a thought leader.

In a recent article, Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone, offers a simple formula: 1) build expertise and 2) get people to recognize it. He says he is living proof that the formula works.

At Deloitte Consulting, my rise from post-MBA consultant to chief marketing officer was accelerated by my “getting slightly famous” in the fields of re-engineering and customer relationship management. Then it was sharing my marketing acumen that helped me land jobs as CMO of Starwood Hotels and CEO of a computer games startup, as well as founding my own sales and marketing consultancy, Ferrazzi Greenlight.

He offers five simple steps (which he attributes to former Deloitte colleague Bo Manning) for becoming a thought leader:
  1. Talk about your expertise with everyone you meet.
  2. Prepare a formal, one-hour talk with a deck of slides.
  3. Write an article.
  4. Write more articles.
  5. Write a book.
As Ferrazzi acknowledges, this is tough work. By doing the last four of those behind the scenes to help my clients become thought leaders, I have made it significantly less arduous on them. But it’s still a tremendous commitment. One has to have the ambition, energy and courage to assume a role of leadership in the first place.
Of course, one of the best ways to elevate ourselves is by elevating others. Many of the people I work with are focused on turning the senior executives in their firms into thought leaders.
All that said, I share Ferrazzi’s view that this is the best way to rise above the market noise and become a respected authority in one’s field or industry. The rewards come in powerful new roles and promotions, escalating compensation, and the high esteem of one’s colleagues and customers.