How to Become a Thought Leader on LinkedIn

Become a Thought Leader on LinkedIn |

Update: LinkedIn recently closed thought leader applications due to an overwhelming response. Using these tips to create a great profile will still help establish you as a thought leader on LinkedIn (and other platforms, too). Here’s how Lewis Howes, who literally wrote the book on LinkedIn, established himself as a thought leader.

It doesn’t matter if you’re an entrepreneur, an employee, or a student – your ability to become a thought leader will catapult your success.  A great way to accomplish this, is on LinkedIn.

I’ll be honest, I love LinkedIn. It has made me the business person I am today. After getting permanently sidelined from my football career, I needed to find a way to earn a living. I turned to LinkedIn for that help and ended up writing the official book on it. Despite being the most active person on the site, it still took me a long time to achieve my current status as thought leader.

Why? I needed to learn what it was, what it meant and what I could do to become one. A sidelined athlete simply won’t make the cut.

Reach 200 Million People

So where does LinkedIn play into all of this?

LinkedIn’s newest feature, thought leaders, allows users to follow the world’s most influential thinkers. Everyone from President Barack Obama to Richard Branson are flocking to this platform for one major reason: reach. There is now over 200 million user registrations worldwide on LinkedIn, which makes it one of the most actively populated social sites.

Currently, thought Leaders (all 150 of ’em) produce top-quality written and multimedia content. LinkedIn users can then engage directly with these heavy-hitters by commenting on their content and sparking conversations.

But this platform is not limited to rich and famous.  You too have an opportunity to enter this public stage.

Why Thought Leaders Are Irreplaceable

Thought leaders are indispensable because they’re custom made.  Their unique experiences and choices have shaped who they are and how they perceive their environment, which makes them one of a kind.

But having a unique perspective is just one half of the equation.  The other half is to lead.  Quite literally, thought leadership means leading an audience’s thoughts in a new and groundbreaking direction. It means educating and surrounding yourself with the right people and motivating but one person to do something bigger and better. Something I do everyday.

The approach a thought leader takes to their work is a unique blend of expertise, vision and leadership.

Expertise – They know how to do their job, and do it well.

Vision – They keep an eye on developing trends and anticipate how today’s actions actions will impact tomorrow’s results.

Leadership – They inspire people to act

Here’s a thought – if you’re not a thought leader, there are a million other people who can do exactly what you do, and waiting in line to do it.

Be Anything But Standard

In 1994, Joel Kurtzman defined thought leadership as “someone who has ideas that merit attention”. Someone with more than mediocre ideas. Someone with the future in mind and who would cause disruption.

There’s one crucial element which sets these types of leaders apart from standard leaders – they are recognized!

Now, the question is – are you?

The 3 Secrets of Thought Leadership

It doesn’t take a publishing deal or a professional speaking tour to become a thought leader. Here are 3 ways you can make it happen.

1. Timely Content

Here’s the simple definition of timely content; it’s something your audience can use NOW.  Whether it’s something that can help them with an immediate situation or something which can prepare them for tomorrow’s challenges. Timely content is a gift to your audience.

2. Audience Relevance

Thought leaders know how to take any piece of information and make it relevant to their audience.  This is why story telling is so important.  It allows your audience to be captivated through the story, but still delivers a powerful and relevant message.

3. Forward Thinking

Forward thinking is the foundation of thought leadership.  It’s the ability to distill information through your past experiences and gut instinct, which allows you to make predictions on the future.

But forward thinking also requires risk.  You’ll be walking down an uncharted path filled with haters and naysayers.  But stick with your vision and your gut if you know it’s the right thing to do.

Here are a few things you’ll need to get in order before extending your reach.

Becoming a LinkedIn Thought Leader

1. Perfect the Profile

LinkedIn will want some proof that you’re a true leader. Start by beefing up your profile. Make sure you’ve fully completed it. Have a thorough summary and list all of your previous experience. Pay special attention to the “Skills & Expertise”, “Honors & Awards” and “Recommendations” sections.

Be sure you have been endorsed for all of your skills many times as well as recommended for various positions. If possible, have other influencers endorse and recommend you. Note any speaking engagements or awards as well.

2. Get Published

LinkedIn also wants to see that you have experience writing and publishing content that resonates. While your personal blog is great, do your best to have your work published on major publications, such as Fast Company or Harvard Business Review. Be sure the content is remarkable and that you’ve been published at least twice.

3. Create a Deck

Create and publish at least one amazing SlideShare presentation or video. LinkedIn wants to see that you’re sharing your innovative ideas across multiple mediums, so you’ll gain some added credibility here.

4. Make It Official

Once you’re confident in your beefed-up profile, you can head to the application page. Input all of the details above and send off your application.

You’ll hear back in about a week. If you don’t get a “yes” right away, don’t worry. Just keep building your personal brand and spreading your insights. Be timely, be relevant and be novel. Every blog post published, every deck created, every talk given puts you one step closer to that “yes”. But remember…

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” ~John Quincy Adams

Are you a thought leader? What did you do to take your leadership to the next level?

Lewis Howes is a former pro athlete turned successful entrepreneur, speaker and author. He is one of the “50 Most Influential People in Blogging” and he was recognized by Empact100 at a White House ceremony as one of the top 100 entrepreneurs in the country under 30.  He has published two books, is a contributor for Forbes and Entrepreneur, and has been featured in the New York Times, Fast Company, Fox Business, Time, and countless media outlets for his online marketing success. Learn more at

Photo courtesy of Paul Doherty

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