Top Characteristics Of A Thought Leader

To lead an audience, you need to own a number of small acts that touch your audience, or one major act that moves your audience to respond.

Some skills and characteristics are a must. You cannot escape learning and acquiring them. The lists of Thought Leaders showcase how each Thought Leader has a different degree of expertise in one of the skills mentioned below. These skills should emerge as your second nature, mostly that define to be components of your character.

The characteristics can be encapsulated into three scenarios — when you are placed in a one-to-many, one-to-one, or many-to-one engagement with your ecosystem and audience.

If you are not the reading type, there is an infographic at the end of the article that summarizes this article with a checklist.


Proactive Outreach

Stay in touch with media. It includes everything from monitoring news coming from your industry, scanning the environment for key events and trends, and staying in touch with journalists, PR agencies, and media traders.

Local Involvement

Find groups, communities, and events that are hosted for your audience, and to help your industry. Participate in these events to network, speak, learn, interact with your audience.

Speaking Engagements

Right from local to national events, you get to find many opportunities to speak before people. But, first dig into your immediate network to be able to capitalize on the closest speaking engagements. As a part of the Thought Leadership course, you will be also be introduced to how to find speaking engagements.

Content Creation

Take a look at the Thought Leadership lists. You will notice that thought leaders are often involved in some or the other type of content creation activities. Writing a book, a newspaper column, e-books, or blogging, illustrating, or video making. They choose one type of content and start developing on them over a long duration.

Social Media

Engaging with your audience, personally is a luxury. Social Media enables this. Start conversing with people on any one social media channel to begin. If you like something, don’t be lazy to just like it and leave. Share your opinion, comments, and feedback. Except for a handful, many people appreciated when I did this. They love it.



You always have a chance to mentor other colleagues in your organization. Some customers, audience from speaker sessions and so on seek advice and direction all the time. When someone approaches you, you stand a chance to become a mentor and carve your niche of thought leadership.

Seek Inspiration

There is no dearth for the need of inspiration.  Knowing other Thought Leaders would always help. Knowing them in person is even better. I have my list of thought leaders who I would love to know about and stay in touch with. Create your list of thought leaders and keep them ready.

The free course on Thought Leadership would soon deal with it too.


The reference to ‘One’ is YOU. Everything here gets directed back to you.

Social Listening

If you are a marketer, the term social listening is a quick connect. But, if you are not, here is an introduction to social listening. The concept of social listening got institutionalized after the emergence of social media platforms and digital communities. It is a process of listening to what your audience are talking about you and your associate brands or topics of interest. This helps in gauging the sentiment across digital audience and manage your reputation.

Empathetic View

Listen to experiences of the other person, rather than assuming that you have more to speak about. This helps in developing an empathetic view towards different problems in your niche. The more the better. However, some of these experiences may be extremist views and highly opinionated. Sieve off the skewed variants from the generalistic ones.


Step out of the Ptolemic view that “the universe revolves around me.” This is where humility begins. You could be capable of many aspects but it cannot gain recognition in the absence of an audience.


What is Individual Thought Leadership?

“I am a product manager. I took this role in the recent past. Now, I see myself as a brand. I need to establish authority over the topics and industries that I deal with everyday. But, it does not seem as easy as it looks. I need to position myself among my peers as a specialist in what I do. What describes me? What makes my peers feel comfortable talking to me about it.”

You could replace the designation with yours in the above story. And, this is probably how you feel when you are trying to build your own thought leadership.

There are two types of Thought Leadership. An individual’s and an organization’s thought leadership. Let’s first focus on the Individual or Personal Thought Leadership.

An Individual’s Thought Leadership helps a person establish authority over a topic that she frequently associates with. This could be in personal capacity, or tied to a brand, a large organization, a community, or an ecosystem.

So, here is a list of activities that you can take up in order to emerge as an individual thought leader. You need to choose what best suits you. The combination of activities you choose is as unique as you are.

Firstly, choose a context. Find out if you are able to the solve the problem of your audience, by doing any of the following. I have mentioned a few categories of people who meet each context.

  • Teach a skill that the audience seek.
  • Update information that your audience would not find anywhere else
  • Develop a taste for Creative work, an eye for analogies
  • Help them find resources: people or anything else.
  • Help them build connections
  • Raise money
  • Opinions, reviews, interviews provide information that will save time for audience
  • Some Fresh Thinking: I created this because I could find a better word to bucket the titles mentioned here.

The list indicates that building Thought Leadership largely depends on the type of content and information that you are able to provide to your audience. Choose one of them for yourself.

If you need some inspiration, here are a few lists that you could explore further based on your interest and strength.

Bookmark this page. New lists will be updated on this page. Lists of Thought Leaders.

Fundraising and Non-Profit Thought Leaders & Influencers

Julia Campbell

Julia Campbell helps plan and launch modern nonprofit marketing campaigns. She helps organizations get more visibility and online connections through improving their social media presence and websites.

Acts of Thought Leadership
Webinars, Online Classes, Blogging, Writing, and Speaking Engagements

Vu Le

Vu Le, an Executive Director of Rainier Valley Corps, a nonprofit in Seattle that promotes social justice by developing leaders of color, strengthening organizations led by communities of color, and fostering collaboration between diverse communities.


Acts of Thought Leadership

Blogging (Humorous articles), Speaking Engagements

Beth Kanter

Beth Kanter teaches fundraising strategy, donor retention practices, motivational stories and so much more. She is a global non-profit trainer. Her blogs talk about how you can frame your nonprofit organization’s impact when you go to ask for donations, as well as inspire you to collect new data and metrics on your fundraising performance.


Acts of Thought Leadership

Teaching and Training, Blogging, Speaking Engagements, Author of Books, Social Media Presence

Stacy & Kishshana Palmer

Stacy manages the editorial of the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Kishshana helps professionals grow and helps entrepreneurs put a little ‘do good’ in their business model.

@stacypalmer @funddiva

Acts of Thought Leadership

Coaching, Blogging, Speaking Engagements, Writing.

Dan Pallotta

Dan Pallotta raised funds through his multi-day walks. They generated enormous publicity and raised massive amounts of money for breast cancer, AIDS and suicide prevention, generating a combined estimated total of $582 million over 9 years.


Acts of Thought Leadership

Writing, Public Speaking, TED Talks.