As noted in our previous articles, industry thought leaders are people or individuals who are regarded as experts in their field. They are people of immense knowledge and skill who have, over the years, added good value to their field. In 1994, Joel Kurtzman defined a thought leader as “Someone who had ideas THAT MERITED ATTENTION”. Thought leaders are also visionaries with a mission of expanding and enlightening their field. They are often regarded as people who look into the future of a field, reform existing practices, and set a course for others to follow. You could also say that they are people who contribute greatly to their field or industry through ideas, information, and production success in a way that they become trusted. What are industry thought leaders?
To be an industry thought leader, it means you have contributed to the growth and development in your area of expertise, proven your relevance over the years, and have disseminated vital information other people might leverage for the advancement of your industry. Industry thought leaders are a steady and reliable source of information, opinion, and insight to their specialized field, and are mentors to the young and growing colleagues in their industry. Before you can be regarded as a thought leader in your industry, you must have provided vital information, built people’s (consumers’) trust, and gained standing in the industry beyond a reasonable doubt. There are many examples of industry thought leaders today, and we can find them in numerous fields.
For example, John F Kennedy, the former president of the United States of America, was regarded as a thought leader because he was the first president to ask the Congress to approve more than 22 billion dollars for space exploration when he said men could walk on the moon. In the tech industry, we have lots of thought leaders who have made the world easier with their ideas and development of smart gadgets. The first two people that come to mind are Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Both have contributed immensely to what the computing world is today. Although, they did not have the same idea, their goal was the same; one believed that the closed computing system is the way, while the other believed that the open computing system is better. They both gained millions of followers over the years and this has birthed several other computing systems
A similar example is Mark Zuckerberg, who is the CEO of Facebook. Before its existence, there was nothing like an app or website where people could connect and make friends, but a person had this thought and gave everything to develop and make his idea a reality. It was met with criticism, as many other ideas you have might be, but he did actualize his dreams, and he has made it easy to make friends and even talk to them without extra charges from network providers. Facebook, at the moment, has over 2.7 billion active users per month and is still growing.
One of the common things about thought leaders is that they are known for their crazy ideas. In this article, I will focus more on the tech and business industry because they are well known and a few of them even made the list of the world’s richest people compiled by Forbes magazine.
- Elon Musk – Elon Musk is an engineer and also a businessman. He is notably known as the CEO of Tesla, Inc. He was an adept reader from a young age and developed an interest in computer programming with his first programming product coming at the age of 12.
Growing up was hard for him because his parents divorced, and he had to live most of his young life with his father. Elon Musk did not like his dad. He described his father as a terrible human being, and he suffered from bullying in his schooling days. His business career started as early as 1995 when himself and his brother started a company named Zip2. In an interview, Musk said even with him owning a company, he couldn’t afford an apartment. He had to sleep on the office couch
His efforts began to pay off when Compaq acquired Zip2 for US$307 million in February 1999 with Elon Musk receiving US$22 million personally, a 7% share of the company. Later that year, Musk co-founded the X.com company with US$10 million out of the money he received from the sale of Zip2. That company later merged with another company that has an internet payment gateway called PayPal. PayPal was later acquired by eBay in October 2002 for US$1.5 billion and Musk received US$165 million because he was the majority shareholder of the company.
Elon Musk didn’t relent at his early wealth. He invested US$100 million in the establishment of Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) in 2002 and Tesla Motors in 2003. His dream was to have a company that builds electric sports cars. In 2019, he was ranked joint-first on the Forbes list of the Most Innovative Leaders in that year. In November 2020, Elon Musk became the third richest man in the world, as listed by Forbes Magazine, with his wealth quadrupling what it was before the start of the COVID 19 pandemic.
- Jeff Bezos – Another example of a thought leader is Jeffrey Preston Bezos. He is an American entrepreneur and investor. He is the founder of Amazon, an internet e-commerce company. Similar to Elon Musk, his parents divorced and his mother married a man from Cuba. He began his working career at a telecommunications company with the task of building a network for international trade. He later joined a couple of companies where he worked as head of development, director of customer service, and product manager.
Jeff decided to start his own company, which was meant to be an online bookstore and planned to expand to other products later. He started this company in his garage and later moved to Seattle. In the early stages of Amazon, some investors warned Jeff that there was a high and unavoidable chance that it would fail and go bankrupt, because there was no future for such business.
He later expanded to the sale of music, videos, and later in 1998, he added a variety of consumer goods. Jeff Bezos invested a lot in Amazon with him collecting loans from banks, though the company struggled with debt and financial instability which almost led to the company folding. In 2003, Amazon bounced back making a profit of $400 million. Over the years, Amazon has developed to become one of the most valuable companies in the United States of America.
Jeff Bezos became the first person in the history of mankind to have a net worth exceeding US$200 billion and is listed as the richest man in the world according to Forbes.
HOW TO BECOME AN INDUSTRY THOUGHT LEADER?
- Cultivate a Leadership Strategy: To achieve the feat of being recognized as a thought leader in your field and industry, you must develop both short-term and long-term plans which support your ideas and goals. From there, you can develop a working strategy which will synchronize your long and short-term plans. You can start by producing content (articles, podcasts, videos) weekly or monthly to tell people your ideas and values.
You must represent your values well in the industry. Therefore, you must develop a working strategy. The short-term plans are plans you want to accomplish within a short time while the long-term plans are plans for the future. The long-term plans, in most cases, say a lot about your values and ideas.
- Be a Solution Carrier: One of the best ways to make it to the top is by providing solutions to the problems people are facing. In most cases, it might not be a problem-solving solution but a solution that reforms the normal way of doing things. There are lots of companies in the world today investing in artificial intelligence because it seems to be the future.
- Develop Meaningful Relationships and Trust: Before you can become a thought leader in your field, you must have a meaningful relationship with your followers and customers of your products. You must have high credibility in terms of the trust, your content must be met well by followers and customers, and you must always do things that ensure you retain the trust of your customers.
- Be Flexible: The world is moving, and for you to stay relevant, you must be flexible. Some changes are occurring with time and the best thing to do is to be prepared for the changes. There were times of analog systems, and now we have moved to the era of digital systems; we have seen a little of smart gadgets (although it has not been fully explored).
Looking to build thought leadership? Join the Black Sheep community today. The Black Sheep community is an online platform for future thought leaders. They develop their wisdom and put it into practice by completing assignments and series of questions. The platform helps them to communicate their thoughts in an appealing way, so it becomes easy to make an impact.