Want to be a Trusted Thought Leader? Research is Key

14 November 2019 11:20am

A single lightbulb on a white background. Thought leader inspires other professionals through research.

There is perhaps no more coveted title in business, or even society at large, today than “thought leader.” These exceptionally bright and passionate people are held in high regard for their illuminating insights into some important matter or topic. While anyone can bestow the title of“thought leader” on themselves, the true ones¾those who actually do what the title suggests and shape how others think about something¾aregiven the title by others who recognize their authority. No one will be deemed a thought leader by others if she or he isn’t deemed credible and trustworthy. Relying on research to explain and defend one’s point of view is an effective means of aspiring thought leaders to establish and maintain credibility and trust.

Too many self-appointed “thought leaders” aren’t really thinking or leading. That’s because their so-called thoughts are really just thinly disguised company marketing messages or unsubstantiated pronouncements or predictions. There is, of course, nothing inherently wrong with espousing marketing messages or pontificating about what the future may hold, but trusted thought leaders back up their points of view with data and research.

The Trust-Building Power of Research

Would you rather be enlightened by a thought leader who tells youthat the majority of cars in your country will be powered by electricity by 2035 or by a thought leader who makes the same claim and then provides data from several non-biased sources to back it up? The choice is obvious.

While some thought leaders help establish trust with their followers by conducting or underwriting their own original research, there is extra trust-building power to be found in third-party research from non-biased sources. This sort of outside validation of a thought-leader’s ideas and pronouncements provides a trust-building endorsement. It also strengthens a thought leader’s case and makes us say to ourselves, “This woman really knows her stuff, and I have to pay attention to what she’s saying.”

Thought Leaders Shouldn’t Be “Know-It-Alls”

Many aspiring thought leaders mistakenly believe that every idea or insight that they share needs to be entirely their own. After all, aren’t thought leaders supposed to be “know-it-alls”? No.They aren’t, nor should they claim to be. Yes, thought leaders need to have some unique insights and observations that set them apart and provide the reason why anyone would care to engage with them. But trusted thought leaders recognize the power of surrounding their point of view with research that reinforces it. In short, thought leaders say smart things and back it up with smart data.

Follow the Lead of Other Thought Leaders

You’d be hard-pressed to pick up any book from a trusted thought leader and not see various research findings referenced throughout. This is certainly true of such popular books as “What the Future Looks Like: Scientists Predict the Next Great Discoveries―and Reveal How Today’s Breakthroughs Are Already Shaping Our World,” by British-Iraqi physicist Jim Al-Khalili and“Contagious: Why Things Catch On” by American Jonah Berger. These are just two of countless examples. Check your own bookshelves.

If you aspire to be a thought leader, seek first and foremost to have your opinions deemed credible and trustworthy. The surest way to do that is to back up and illuminate the important things you have to say with research.

Do you have the right research to back up your predictions and revelations? Let us help.

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