A thought leader is a recognized expert, someone who is seen as such by people, especially those outside of your close sphere of influence. Being a thought leader within your organization or school is important; being a thought leader who is called on for public, expert comment gives you the opportunity create an even greater difference. That said, there are important differences between academic credibility, which you likely already have, and the broader political or business credibility needed to drive practice change.

How to Become a Thought Leader

Becoming a thought leader can be a gradual, years-long process. In general you want to seek public-facing opportunities that make your expertise and leadership known to a broader audience. Traditional communication methods, such as pursuing speaking engagements, publishing grey-literature papers, writing editorials and op-eds, and providing expert quotes to the media are all part of the process. However, over the past few years, social media, including Twitter and blogging, has provided unique and powerful opportunities to amplify your voice. Very quickly, you can reach a large but interested audience, and engage in smart two-way conversations with other thought leaders in the field, people with whom you might not otherwise be able to connect. Our page on social media and thought leadership provides helpful examples and links to articles on this topic.  

The John A. Hartford Foundation Change AGEnts hosted a workshop on “Building One’s Voice: Establishing Thought Leadership” offering valuable insights from experts at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, Healthwise, and the NYU School of Nursing. Click here for a summary PDF.