Thought Leadership: How to Become an Expert in Your Field

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Do you have the “Right Stuff” to be an expert in your field? Probably ... even if you don’t think you do.

When I talk to people about personal branding, social networking and thought leadership, and advise them that they can become recognized authorities in their fields, I usually get a perplexed, “who me?” type of response.

When it comes to having an honest, realistic perspective of our own value and expertise, most of us suffer from an undue sense of humility. Blame it on some awful high school teacher who belittled us for not knowing the right math answer (most of my humiliating high school experiences were math-class related).

The fact is, aside from professions that require a professional license to practice, expertise is gained by reading and study. Give me the practitioner who keeps up to date on his subject matter over the person who has ten more years of experience any day. The person who is a student of his field is far more an expert than the person who simply recycles the same knowledge he gained in his first year over and over again.

So read, read, read:

  • In order to become a thought leader in any field, you first have to study and keep up on everything that is current within that field.

  • Read books by going to and finding the top five books on any subject.

  • Read blogs by going to to find the highest regarded blogs on any topic.

  • Subscribe to Google Alerts by setting up a daily email of new information found on the web on any topic you can think of.

  • Follow Twitterers who Tweet about certain topics by going to

  • Find print publications and trade magazines that cater to the people you want to reach.

I just listened to a very interesting mp3 interview of Perry Belcher, who summed this whole idea of being an expert very succinctly. He said, you are actually being paid to read for people who don’t want to do it for themselves. If you are willing to do the reading for them, you can reap the benefits of positioning yourself as an expert.

Find a Niche

But reading is not enough, you must find and provide solutions to a niche in order to be an expert. No lawyer is an expert on every legal issue, no physician is an expert in every specialty. And you cannot expect to master all areas of your chosen profession.

But you must also be a problem solver. Niches are not built around mere demographics, they are also built on solution building:

  • Define your niche around problems. Ask yourself what problems you are very good at solving.
  • Then find the people who have these problems.
  • Next, find out if these people with these problems are part of certain groups or organizations.
  • Then find out what other problems (even problems unrelated to what you do) these people have.
  • Find out what value these people place on finding a solution. In other words, how much does this problem cost them?
  • Finally, create material or content that solves these problems. This is called “Thought Leadership” because if you are in the forefront of the problem-solving thinking of a field, you are its leader.

Is reading and finding a niche all there is? Of course not. You still have to be good. Hence the focus on solving actual problems.

But if you read about your topic and target a niche you can solve problems for, you can legitimately pass yourself off as an expert.

And still sleep at night.

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COPYRIGHT © 2009, Charles Brown
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