Years ago when I started working as a writing consultant at Seattle University, I could never have imagined where my love of communications would take me. Today, as owner of the publishing consulting business, LegacyONE Authors, I’ve helped countless professionals write and self-publish expert books in their fields.

However, building my business was not always easy. As a pioneer in self-publishing, many times I found myself derailed, blocked, stymied and distracted. I had to dig in deeply and work hard to stay on track, often at the objection of those around me who could not see my vision or understand my direction.

Over time, I realized my clients faced similar challenges.  Like me, they wanted to make a significant, lasting difference in the world. And they had the expertise to do it. However, they sometimes lost sight of their goal or had trouble articulating it to others.  In short, they wanted to be “thought leaders” but lacked an understanding of how to build that for themselves.

What is a thought leader?

A thought leader is someone others look to for advice, guidance and direction. Thought leaders inspire trust and are innovative, reliable authorities who offer creative solutions to problems. Authentic and persuasive, their sphere of influence is large. In companies, they energize strong teams. In organizations and government, they drive meaningful change. This is why they’re often appointed to corporate boards, government commissions and industry-wide committees. In short, they’re respected role models, leaders in their profession, industry or community who are known widely for making a significant difference.

Why is it important to be a thought leader?

Speaking out and letting your voice be known engages you in life. And, while stepping into the limelight can make you a target for criticism, it can also bring you promotions, elections, awards and other accolades which build your credibility. It’s this widespread credibility which enables you to inspire others and create sustainable, meaningful change.

Becoming a respected, well-known thought leader, though, doesn’t happen overnight. It’s often an extremely tough process. But it’s well worth the commitment. Increased satisfaction in your career and a heightened sense of personal accomplishment makes it fully worthwhile.

How do you become a thought leader?

Tell your story.  Whether you are already a thought leader or looking to grow into being one, telling your story is essential. I’ve seen the power of storytelling exponentially expand my clients’ circle of influence. As a matter of fact, my first book grew my business by 60 percent! As a subject matter expert, publishing an ExpertBook™ magnifies your voice. For example, you might go to a conference or meeting and talk to a group of people. They may remember a portion of your ideas and mention a few of them to others. But they probably won’t remember all of what you shared. However, a book can reach thousands of people. And all of what you share is published in the public eye forever.

Trust what you know and share your expertise. No one knows your story better than you do. Think about what you do and why it matters. Right now is a great time to write a book because mainstream communications have become short and quick. This means book publishing is even more vital for professionals who want to share deeper content and provide lasting impact.

Ask for help. Avoid getting bogged down in the writing and publishing process. Many people start writing books with the best of intentions. But the book never gets written or published. LegacyONE Authors can help you organize, write and publish your brilliance – and help you get “unstuck” when you encounter obstacles.

Stay on your path. Finally, the strongest sign of a true thought leader is an uncompromising belief in the value of what you have to share and the willingness to do the work to get there. Identify your vision, focus on what you want to accomplish and get started. Then, as actress Bette Davis quipped in the film, All About Eve, “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night!” Be steadfast, hang on and claim your legacy.

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