What is Thought Leadership?

what is thought leadership

Thought Leadership Defined

The phrase Thought Leadership started out as a very specific ideology. And like most idioms and plenty of simple words, the term has become diluted. True thought leadership is more than just having years of industry experience. It’s certainly more than gaining some fleeting media attention. Thought leadership is built upon every day through constant learning. Through observation, experimentation, and implementation. It comes from sharing your perspective and conviction. Forming your own opinions and communicating your best thinking.

As indicated in an article by Inc. Magazine, being considered a thought leader is a compliment that is earned and given by the industry and by one’s peers. One of my mentors, Daniel Priestley says that “until you become a person of influence in your industry, it is your full-time job to become a person of influence in your industry.” That kind of dedication is what it takes to be known and recognized as a thought leader and a go-to industry expert. Thought leaders are constantly trailblazing, studying trends, and leaving behind their old best thinking for new and improved revelations that drive their industry forward.

Why is thought leadership important to a growing healthcare organization?

Humans innately trust people over brands. As such, it’s important that you, as a healthcare leader, identify your personal ethos before trying to define your corporate culture.

Start by asking yourself these simple questions:

  • What do you want to be known for?
  • What do you stand for?
  • What social efforts do you support?

These guiding principles will determine where your time is best spent and how decisions should be made, both personally and professionally. As a leader, you must assume the public is watching, because they are. Prospective patients and recruits will want to know what the organization’s leadership stands for and how that drives the corporate culture — and those ethos need to be easily experienced through visible action and careful content creation.

Once the personal guiding principles are defined, the corporate mission and vision statements should be reviewed. Don’t leave it to the marketing team to develop the corporate vision. The culture must be driven by and lived out every day from the top down, as this is where patient trust and team confidence are hard-won and easily lost.

If the leader doesn’t truly embody and personally exhibit the corporate ethos, the messaging will not be interpreted as authentic and consumer skepticism grows. (A highly publicized example of this is the corporate fallout caused by former Uber CEO, Travis Kalanick.) When a leader displays personal integrity, brand loyalty can thrive.

How To Become Known as a Thought Leader

It’s a lot of work to break into the revered circle of thought leadership…and the work never ends, if you want to stay there. However, the hard work is worth it and the effort becomes less as the foundation is built and the traction kicks in. Experience is key, but so is constant advancement.

The term leaders are readers is acknowledged as fundamental to those who earn this distinction. At the same time, visionaries create more content than they consume. To be seen and recognized as a thought leader, one’s industry insights and predictions must be easily found and readily shared through multiple platforms. Consumers enjoy content in a variety of ways, and a thought leader’s content should be able to be read, listened to, and watched.

There is no sense being prolific in all of the social media platforms, but it’s important to be highly active in a select few that make sense. YouTube is definitely one of them. Perhaps LinkedIn is another. Industry periodicals are another and featured business articles (versus paid advertising) are the coveted goal.

Thought leaders are also sought out as speakers. The highest-paid speakers are no longer professional speakers by trade —they are industry experts, athletes, and actors; those with a massive following and remarkable credentials. Thought leaders are readily featured in the news when a story breaks with reference to their industry. Granted, these opportunities are hard-earned, but plentiful if one is willing to do the work, which involves creating massive amounts of searchable content.

Authorship plays an important role. Business books are still the gold standard to garner media features and speaking engagements (remember: the root of the word authority is author.)  Beyond that, white papers, articles in industry magazines, and video content are a few other opportunities to publish continuous, meaningful, and relevant content.

Thought Leadership Content Creation Checklist

As mentioned, content should be thought about as items that people can read, listen to, or watch. Here are a few examples of types of searchable content that you can create:

  • Blogs
  • White papers
  • Op-ed articles
  • Business books
  • Podcasts
  • Vlogs
  • Media interviews
  • Industry Expert videos
  • Speaking engagements
  • Industry panel discussions
  • Collaborative content with other industry experts
  • Live, interactive Q&A sessions

When to Use Thought Leadership

Well-developed thought leadership is, at all times, helpful for a growing organization. Effective thought leadership drives everyday decisions and secures patient and team retention. Thought leadership is by far the best way to promote the brand and the organization.

When the organization’s leader is seen as one of the most visible and celebrated industry experts, patients and recruits are drawn to that organization through consumer confidence. Exciting partnership opportunities show up rather than being sought out, and that’s where exponential visibility and growth occurs. To read more about how personal and corporate brand awareness — powered by thought leadership and strong messaging efforts — can lead to massive scale, see my recent blog called The 3 Essential Building Blocks of Brand Awareness.

Thought leadership plays an important role in a growing healthcare provider organization’s internal and external communications.

About the author: Jodi McLean is the Director of Strategic Initiatives at Symphony Agency and a personal branding strategist. She’s a prolific blogger and author of Intrapreneur. To see how she can help you become a thought leader in the healthcare industry, contact us 

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