• Estimated read time: 6 mins
  • Date posted:06/07/2020
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If you hope to get to the C-suite one day then thought leadership is your secret weapon. A thought leader is someone whose thoughts, opinions and messages are seen as credible, authoritative and influential. Their perspective on their industry or area of expertise inspires and influences others. It’s essentially a way for you to solidify yourself as a reliable and credible source of information in the life science industry. By sharing your knowledge and experience, over time, your audience will hang on to your every word and perceive you to be a thought leader. All it takes for you to practice thought leadership is a robust personal brand, passion, expertise and opinion; all of which you should already have as a seasoned executive.

Most executives will use LinkedIn to exercise their thought leadership. This platform allows you to boost your visibility and demonstrate your expertise by publishing content and engaging with your network. Although LinkedIn provides a free and easy way to practice thought leadership, many successful thought leaders go on to guest speak at networking events and exhibitions. An authoritative and influential presence on LinkedIn can elevate your thought leadership to receiving invites to these exclusive opportunities.

What are the benefits of successful thought leadership?

Thought leadership gives you a platform to educate and inspire others. 50% of decision-makers spend at least one hour per week consuming thought leadership content, which means you have the potential to carry influence in some of the top life science organisations.

Not only this, but it also has the promise to transform your job search. Demonstrating your credibility online will expand your professional network. If you’re posting consistently enough for them to take notice of your expertise, they may be able to approach you with new career opportunities. They could either serve as your hiring manager at their organisation or refer you for another position. Thought leadership opens up doorways and hands you job opportunities on a silver platter. This makes it an excellent way to future-proof your career.

Here are 7 top tips to boost your thought leadership and reap the benefits:

1) Find out what you’re an expert in

It’s impossible to be perceived as a credible source of information without knowing what you’re talking about. For example, if you’ve had over ten years of experience progressing through the ranks in engineering at established life science organisations, then you know to position yourself as an industry thought leader. On the other hand, if you’ve never run your own business before, then you don’t have the expertise to become a thought leader in start-ups or business strategy. Although your audience comes to you for your opinion and the latest industry news, they themselves will have had a substantial career or interest in your industry. Therefore, with their knowledge of trends, keywords and the industry, they’ll be able to spot amateur content by a long-shot and expose you for a fraud.

Playing to your strengths is the golden ticket of thought leadership. Identify your niche, understand it, and stick to it. You don’t need to be an expert in everything; in fact, this is generally not advised. For example, if a member of your network relies on your thought leadership on engineering, they don’t want to have to scroll through realms of content on finance and budgeting. To identify your niche, ask yourself: how do you want to position yourself? What do you want to be known for? The more niche your thought leadership, the larger the audience you attract.

2) Prove your credibility

It’s not enough to simply say you’re an expert, you have to prove it to your audience. To do so, you need to demonstrate your experience and knowledge through personal stories. Sure, you can just redistribute industry news and put your stance on it, but anyone can do that. By telling personal stories in which you developed a business strategy and increased sales by 32% or successfully developed your team so that they hit their personal targets four years in a row, you demonstrate your credibility to your audience. If you claim to be an expert engineer but fail to disclose insight from your lengthy engineering career, then your audience could perceive this as a red flag. As a bonus, a thought leader that injects some personality into their content is far more memorable and recognisable too.

3) Be consistent

Thought leadership requires consistency. Posting one article or video a week isn’t going to cut it, no matter how good that piece of content is. Consistent content creation elevates your voice and opinion. Consistent thought leadership is a commitment that needs to be made if you want to truly succeed in your career. You’ll want to get to the point where your audience anticipates your thought leadership content. It might be worth drawing up a content calendar or schedule; if your audience knows you post every day at 10am and 2pm, they might set calendar alerts at these times. A well-organised content calendar lays out clearly what content is being distributed and when, which could help you to abide by these deadlines.

To establish yourself as a thought leader, your audience must trust your opinion. As well all know though, trust isn’t built overnight. Therefore, for trust to be built, consistency over a long period of time is key. If you go months without posting, only to come back and spam post content for two weeks at a time, and then disappear again, your audience won’t take you or your opinion seriously.

4) Vary your content

The more varied your content, the better; videos, infographics, LinkedIn posts, blog posts, podcasts – the sky’s the limit. This can sound daunting at first, especially as many people consider themselves technology novices. However, the great thing about being an authentic thought leader, is that you don’t need to be a technology or word genius unless, of course, that’s what you’re positioning yourself as a thought leader in. Producing and distributing content doesn’t have to be rocket science, and besides, most people prefer authentic content. If the only camera you own is the one inside your phone, utilise that. Your audience isn’t expecting a professional production standard, and even if they were, most modern smartphones come equipped with an impressive camera nowadays anyway. It’s not so much the quality of the content that’s important, but whether the content is valuable to your followers.

However, if you’re serious about becoming a thought leader then don’t be afraid to invest in some staff to support your content creation efforts. You could outsource whatever you need assistance with, whether that’s proofreading, designing, writing or video editing.

You may be feeling a bit overwhelmed at producing content all day every day, on top of your other work responsibilities. However, many thought leaders redistribute their old content and thus, free up their time. For example, you could redistribute your old blog posts into podcasts or videos, and vice versa. Additionally, if you have realms of old content, feel free to repost this. It’s a waste of your time if you put in the time and effort to create something, only to post it once and forget about it.

5) Engage with your followers

Posting content alone is not enough. To provide true value and leadership you must engage with your audience and followers; reply to their comments, follow them back, engage with their own content and arrange LinkedIn Lives in which your followers can interact with you in real-time. Nurturing your audience before, during and after you’ve posted content will amplify your thought leadership and impressions. Engagement helps you to connect with like-minded individuals, expand your network and generate audience loyalty towards you. There may be fifty other thought leaders just like you in your industry, but if you’re the only one to engage and show a genuine interest in your audience, then you’ll be the one that earns their allegiance.

6) Collaborate with other thought leaders

A popular strategy used by successful thought leaders to expand their reach is to collaborate with similar thought leaders. By working closely with one another to produce engaging content you can gain more followers virtually overnight. Two people distributing the same content on their own platforms means that that content will be exposed to more people. By collaborating with well-established thought leaders, their audience could become your audience. Collaboration is additionally an excellent way to project your credibility through the roof.

7) Put the time in

Get prepared to put the hours in because thought leadership requires a lot of hard work and dedication. If you could become a thought leader overnight, then everyone would do it. However, only the truly dedicated and persistent executives become thought leaders. It’s not uncommon for these thought leaders to work long hours at the start, often on top of their day jobs and balancing their family life to reap the benefits later on. Long hours should hardly come as a surprise to seasoned executives; any new business pursuit will inevitably require your time and attention. It’s best to adjust your routine to make the most of your time; wake up early, utilise your commute to draft content, reply to comments on your lunch break and put in some hours at the weekends. Once you’ve ‘made it’ as a thought leader and your audience have come to rely on your content, you might be able to relax your schedule as you get into the swing of things.

Some employers are hesitant to allow their employees to practice thought leadership for fear of negative feedback. However, what a lot of employers don’t realise is that thought leadership can benefit them and their organisation. If their staff members are classed as credible and authoritative experts in their field, this can elevate their position as a life science organisation.

For more job-search advice tailored to senior managers and executives in the life sciences…

* Fraser Dove International is a talent consultancy operating exclusively across the life sciences industry. While our roots lie in executive search, we provide more than the traditional recruitment services. Uniquely placed within the market, we have been providing cutting-edge talent solutions and insight to organisations at all stages of their journey – from start-up to established leaders – since 2013.