Updated: Feb 17
By Rhea Wessel
Thought-leadership writing can come in long form, as a book, or it can be a body of work in the short form, such as 800 to 1,000-word articles for channels like LinkedIn or Medium. No matter the length, writing in the thought-leadership style is writing that meets a burning need faced by your audience and a need that you happen to know a lot about and care about.
It serves your reader by simplifying the complex, applying thinking from one field to another, or offering creative solutions where they are desperately needed. But if you're not deeply invested in the ideas you're sharing, your articles may come off flat.
Your subject doesn’t matter
Thought-leadership writing can be about trends in global finance, putting artificial intelligence to use, ways to tackle social or workplace problems or, as Marie Kondo, the Japanese expert on organizing has shown, getting control of your closet.
Your subject matter doesn’t matter that much as long as you’re passionate about it, meeting a need, and enriching the discussion with a fresh perspective.
To execute on thought-leadership writing, you need to take three steps:
Step 1: Find it (your niche)
Step 2: Frame it (your story)
Step 3: Flesh it out (your story)
(See my previous article here):
For me, Step 1, Find It, means loving it, living it, and owning it. People who stand out as thought leaders are those who are passionate about their niche and have used their own curiosity and intellect to consider its problems and come up with ideas for addressing those problems. If you fit this description, most likely, your attraction to a particular subject area is not a coincidence. Most likely, that keen interest is born from your passion, purpose and expertise.
It’s very difficult to identify an area out of the box and then “decide” you want to become a thought leader in it “retroactively.”
I might say artificial intelligence (AI) is an important field and it will impact our lives significantly in the next decades. I might even argue that as a writer, it makes sense for me to specialize in how AI is impacting the way stories are told. Plus, I can’t think of another person offhand who occupies this space. It’s a wide-open niche looking for a thought leader to occupy it. That would be yet another reason for me to go for it, right?
But if I use all this reasoning and go out and pursue thought leadership in this area, I will fail.
That would be a rational decision, made in my head and not in my heart. Indeed I am interested in AI, and I’m very interested in the way stories are told. But at this point in time, I’ve barely looked into the overlap of these two subjects.
That’s my point here: First, you have to love it, live it and own it. Then you have a chance to become a thought leader in a particular niche.
So, what do you care enough about to become its thought leader?
-Rhea Wessel is the Founder and Head of the Institute for Thought Leadership