What is the purpose of developing thought leadership in the workplace? Thought leadership is defined as “intellectual influence and innovative and pioneering thinking” by the Oxford dictionary. Likewise, it’s a term used to describe an innovative individual that understands their industry and can adapt thought leadership strategies to identify with and meet the demands of their audience.
In addition, thought leaders are authentic individuals that share their wisdom with others by providing insightful content and using their knowledge and expertise to convey a message. Some consider SMEs (subject matter experts) thought leaders in their particular niche.
This guide to developing thought leadership looks at a few examples of thought leadership and top suggestions for implementing thought leadership strategies in the workplace.
How do Organisations Benefit from Developing Thought Leadership?
Developing thought leadership strategies in the workplace can help to create a positive and cohesive culture of commitment to growth, teamwork and customer engagement.
Above all, thought leadership examples aren’t always the leaders within a company. Indeed, ground-floor employees may be thought leaders, working innovatively with clients, developing products and generating ideas for improvement within an organisation. Moreover, encouraging employees to think and work autonomously can help pinpoint and creatively solve organisational issues.
Organisations discouraging thought leadership are less likely to resolve issues quickly and creatively. Moreover, there’s no incentive for employees to help the company create positive change, resulting in a workforce that disengages from problem-solving. Subsequently, what is left are employees who only respond to instructions from the top and show no innovation. Subsequently, it’s a recipe for poor employee engagement and retention, which, in time, can impact an organisation’s brand and position in its industry. In addition, unhappy, disengaged employees can lead to a declining customer experience.
Not everyone wants to become a thought leader; some employees will be more creative and outspoken than others. Still, some great ideas can materialise by adopting an open approach to thought leadership strategies. In addition, some team members may surprise you with some fantastic input.
Developing Strategies for Thought Leaders in the Workplace
In line with creating a healthy workplace culture, outlining a few thought leadership strategies can significantly affect how employees feel about working for the organisation. Above all, everyone likes to believe they have a voice, but most employees shut down working in a toxic environment.
What are the best ways to encourage thought leadership in the workplace?
#1 Create an Encouraging Environment
Ideas thrive in a thought leadership environment, but often, management prohibits employees from expressing creative suggestions. For example, a manager may want to be the person with all the ideas. The ego gets in the way. Moreover, they don’t want team members to outshine them and, subsequently, don’t allow their team to be creative.
An overbearing, demanding, or aggressive manager can suppress free speech, and employees aren’t comfortable talking in meetings. It’s better to be a manager people don’t want to leave.
Some managers are guilty of micromanagement. Team members feel that constant supervision and criticism stifle their innovation. New employees quickly assess and adapt to the environment when they join the organisation. You could have hired a fantastic thought leader with ideas that could impact the company. Still, they want to fit in and withhold their suggestions because they have figured out it isn’t encouraged or supported by the organisation.
Developing thought leadership is about creating an environment that encourages employees to share ideas and speak confidently, knowing their opinions are appreciated. However, it’s a fine line between encouraging teams to share information and feeling pressured to perform.
#2 Create a Safe Space for Thought Leaders
Employees must feel inspired to share their ideas. If employees aren’t sharing knowledge in your organisation, there’s a good reason.
As outlined in research by the Harvard Business Review Report of 2019, team members must understand the value of their contributions. If they don’t believe an organisation will implement their ideas, they will, in time, stop sharing.
Set aside time for light-hearted brainstorming. Cultivate a safe environment by listening and encouraging team members to speak freely. Suggest there are no bad ideas and refrain from negative feedback.
Make sure everyone gets a chance to speak and when a great idea appears, ask the team for their opinions on implementing the concept. If you give people the space, with management taking a back seat, they can surprise you with incredible creativity and innovation.
Create an outline for the meeting so it doesn’t descend into a generalised discussion: –
- Have a focus point: For example, to discuss a specific issue in the organisation
- Set out a predetermined time for the meeting, i.e. one hour
- Prior to the meeting, ask attendees to jot down a few ideas
- Create a relaxed environment: Have refreshments available and encourage team members to loosen up from a corporate approach
- Try different meeting formats and vary the number of attendees to see what works best
- Encourage team collaboration, and mix up the teams. Bringing new people together can result in diverse and productive results
- If you find meetings becoming disruptive and unproductive, you may find it helpful to have a talking stick. The idea is that the person holding the stick is the only one who can speak until passed to the next person. Subsequently, in a mix of introverts and extroverts, having a talking stick helps ensure everyone gets a chance to speak
#3 Find the Thought Leaders in the Organisation
In every organisation, shining stars are waiting to get noticed. Some of your best thought leaders may be the quietest people in the organisation. Still, inside they are brimming with creative ideas. The trick is how to identify the thought leaders within the company.
Assuming the organisation has implemented #2 on this list, think about the team members who presented the best ideas. Which people stepped up, showed exceptional problem-solving skills and offered brilliant insights?
If you’re working with a small team, it’s easier to recognise the shining stars. In a larger group, people can get lost amongst the loudest (though not necessarily the best) people.
There are several options to help spot the best thought leaders. Firstly, record the brainstorming sessions and notice who stands out the most. Alternatively, have one or two observers attend the sessions, taking notes but not engaging with the group.
Some people are natural leaders, and it’s easy to see that team members consistently look to them for advice and guidance. These people may have a balancing effect on a team with their presence and calm approach. They are willing to help others excel and grow and are usually good listeners.
Watch for people in the organisation that demonstrate the following traits: –
- Emotionally intelligent
- Excellent communicator
- Quick thinkers
- Good listener
It’s important to remember that you may discover thought leaders at any level within the organisation. It’s easy to assume that thought leadership is only for management, not entry-level employees. The truth is developing thought leadership is possible at any level, regardless of age and experience.
#4 Reward Examples of Thought Leadership
Recognising and rewarding thought leadership in your organisation is essential if you want it to thrive. Thought leaders can significantly impact an organisation if they are motivated and encouraged.
Above all, find out what they want rather than assume what incentivises people to become thought leaders. The instant assumption is to offer monetary rewards, but often employees prefer something aside from money. They may respond more positively to recognition, a promotion or more responsibility.
Rewarding excellence encourages a sense of engagement and purpose. Affirming their contribution helps employees feel more confident and motivated to share ideas. As other employees observe the organisation’s response to thought leadership, it builds a positive culture of openness and willingness to become a thought leader.
#5 Maximise Thought Leadership Strategies with Content Creation
To build the organisation’s voice, creating a thought leadership content strategy is the first step to maximising the impact on your audience.
According to Semrush’s research on thought leadership for business, only 65.4% of business use thought leadership as part of a content marketing strategy. 29.5% said they are working on it, and 5.1% are not developing thought leadership content.
Thought leadership content helps to establish credibility and authority in a business’s niche. Moreover, it reinforces trust and brand recognition to the target audience.
Examples of thought leadership content creation: –
- Blog posts
- Social media channels relevant to the target audience
- Video content
- Guest posts
- Case studies
Thought leadership content can increase engagement and sharing. It can help grow an audience that is more likely to become clients. Share consistent content valuable to your ideal clients, such as data, trends and research. Confidently share the knowledge and opinions of the organisation and become the voice in your industry.
The Semrush report states that for 50% of companies, high-level management and CEOs are responsible for creating leadership content. 48.7% of companies hire freelance or in-house copywriters, and 25.3% of thought leaders work closely with industry influencers and KOLs. That may seem like a great thought leadership strategy, but there may be other budding thought leaders at lower levels in an organisation.
Some employees may have the skills to create brand content for thought leadership content. It isn’t always necessary to assign responsibility to management or influencers.
Maximise thought leadership strategies by encouraging thought leaders within the organisation to have a media voice representing the brand.
Top 6 Benefits of Creating Thought Leadership Content: –
- It highlights the organisations USP
- Increases brand awareness
- Can drive traffic to the company website
- Creates consumer interest
- Can generate and convert more leads into sales
- Encourages customer loyalty
When planning a thought leadership strategy, focus on the brand’s primary objectives. Identify and address the customer pain points and personalise the message so that consumers feel “seen and heard“.
Consumer neuroscience and behavioural economic studies reveal that consumers do not make buying decisions with logic and rationale—instead, their subconscious emotions and cognitive biases drive purchasing impulses.
After the purchase, the brain then creates a rational reason for buying. Thought leadership content can help to inspire consumers to engage with the sales process, take action and experience no buyer’s remorse.
Thought Leadership Examples
- Salesforce: Recognised thought leaders in CRM (customer relationship management). The company conducts Q1 and Q3 studies for small to medium-sized businesses to find the best CRM solutions
- IBM: The company reinvented itself to become known as a leader in global insurance. After conducting a study on Insurance on the Platform, IBM redirected its focus on improving customer service, risk management and enhanced workplace efficiency.
- Adobe: This leading software company surveyed 2,000 marketers and 5,000 consumers to understand the new landscape better. The results revealed that 97% of consumers use smartphones for purchases. In future, as a priority for eCommerce, Adobe learned that they must focus on digital campaign creatives
- PayPal: PayPal published the How we shop report in 2020 to explore how the global pandemic changed consumers’ buying habits. The goal of the study was to discover how retailers could adapt to new buying trends
Conclusion: Powerful Strategies for Developing Thought Leadership in the Workplace
Thought leadership may be the buzzword of our times. Still, it is essential in increasing brand awareness and supporting company growth. Those with the most impactful thought leadership will dominate the space within any industry.
As consumer (digital) behaviour continues to evolve, implementing thought leadership strategies is essential to prepare for significant changes as a decentralised Web3 develops.
It may be challenging to imagine some BigTech giants losing their grip on the market as emerging decentralised applications gain widespread adoption. As we know them, paid streaming services will lose popularity as content creators move to platforms offering direct ownership of their content.
For example, let’s recall the popular Blockbuster video rental stores of the late ’90s. The company had over 9,000 stores, 65 million registered customers and employed 84,000 people globally.
However, in 2010, Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy with almost $1 billion in debt. At the time, Netflix was gaining traction by offering a DVD mail delivery service. Had Blockbuster created a team of thought leaders, they may have brainstormed a transition into other (customer) options instead of a fixation on physical stores, which ultimately cost its demise.
In conclusion, preparing an organisation for a future of radical change can be led by its thought leaders of today. Finally, developing thought leadership as a business model can only lead to bigger and better things for an organisation.
If you’re an unappreciated thought leader looking for an opportunity in Web3 careers, contact the CB Recruitment team to discuss how we can help you.