What Makes a Thought Leader?

11 Feb 2022


What do you do when you need a solution to managing your money? You jump on your computer and begin searching for innovative ideas. On the first page of your Google results, you will come across an article from Ramsey Solutions – founded by best-selling author Dave Ramsey.

Dave Ramsey is a Thought Leader.

Thought Leaders like Ramsey are experts in their fields. The public considers them the most trusted individuals in their profession, and they are the go-to people when consumers need solutions.

What Exactly is a Thought Leader?

Thought leadership is not something you go to school for. And there are no degrees for thought leaders.

A thought leader is an experienced, trustworthy professional who consumers look to for answers to their most pressing questions.

As a professional, your goal is to win your clients' trust. Winning trust is how you gain an excellent reputation. A solid reputation leads people to search for the answers you provide and heed your recommendations.

Dave Ramsey…Seth Godin…Oprah Winfrey

What do all these people have in common? They are all thought leaders.

But how did they become recognized industry leaders?

While their journeys to thought leadership were all vastly different, there does seem to be one common thread among them. They all used a variety of mediums such as radio programs, blogs, television shows, and books, to position themselves as experts in their perspective fields.

In building such a robust platform, these well-known figures have not only achieved great financial and business success, but they have also become household names.

So, what makes them different from the rest of us? And what can we learn by examining their successes and failures?  

Industry Thought Leaders

Dave Ramsey

Dave Ramsey took the real estate exam at age 18, immediately diving into the industry while attending The University of Tennessee and earning a Bachelor of Science in Finance and Real Estate. By age 26, Ramsey had accumulated a weighty portfolio worth over $4 million in real estate.

Unfortunately, by age 30, when the Competitive Equality Banking Act of 1987 went into effect, leaving several banks with a change of ownership, over one million dollars of Ramsey's mortgage loans were recalled because he was over-leveraged.

Unable to pay the loans back, Ramsey filed for bankruptcy in 1988.

After several years of rebuilding his financial life, Ramsey began providing financial advice to parishioners at his church. He founded the Lampo Group (renamed Ramsey Solutions in 2014), offering financial counseling services.

Shortly after finding success in the Lampo Group, Ramsey and fellow entrepreneur Roy Matlock began hosting the finance-based radio show, The Money Game. Eventually, the show became The Ramsey Show which today reaches an audience of over 18 million weekly listeners. In 1992, Ramsey wrote his first book, Financial Peace.

In Financial Peace, Ramsey uses practical and easy-to-follow methods teaching readers how to get out of debt and stay out, how the flow of money can transform relationships, and how to make sound financial decisions.

Today, Ramsey is a best-selling author with over 5 million copies sold of his 28 books.

Seth Godin

You may know Seth Godin from his thought-provoking quotes or reading one of his several best-selling books.

In addition to establishing one of the most recognized blogs globally, the originator of 'permission marketing' has authored 20 best-selling books, including his 2003 smash hit Purple Cow.

Godin is considered the ultimate entrepreneur, a marketer, businessman, public speaker, and author.

While earning his MBA in Marketing from the Stanford Graduate School of Business from 1983 to 1986, Godin began working for Spinnaker Software. After leaving Spinnaker in 1986, he emptied his savings and started his own company – Seth Godin Productions.

In 1998 he established Yoyodyne, a company that later was acquired by Yahoo! It was during his time at Yoyodyne where Godin promoted the concept of permission marketing.

In 2000 after releasing his first e-book, Unleashing the Ideavirus, now available for free in 10 languages, Godin wrote and published his most famous book, Purple Cow; Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable. In Purple Cow, Godin describes his vision of creative advertising in our world of the abundance of products.

Today Godin is in the Direct Marketing Hall of Fame, Marketing Hall of Fame, and Guerrilla Marketing Hall of Fame.

In addition to 20 best-selling books and a renowned blog, Godin creates life-changing workshops, makes appearances on podcasts, and has hosted TED talks. However, he still considers himself a professional writer first.

Oprah Winfrey

There isn’t a better example of an industry leader than Oprah. Oprah is so well-respected and trusted we usually don’t even use her last name when referring to her.

From an abusive childhood and pregnancy at 14 to America’s first Black female multi-billionaire, Oprah has experienced it all.

Born in rural Mississippi into poverty, Oprah spent most of her teen years living with the man she considered her father in Nashville, Tennessee, after her premature-born son died.

While still in high school, Oprah was hired at a local radio station. By 2019, the rising star was co-anchor for the local news.

And in 1986, her self-titled daytime talk show debuted; The Oprah Winfrey Show aired for 25 seasons.

Today it remains the highest-rated daytime talk show in the country. That same year, Oprah launched her production company Harpo Productions.

In 1998, Oprah wrote her first book, Journey to Beloved. She went on to publish five more best-sellers; The Path Made Clear is Oprah’s guide on taking steps to live your best life. Known for overcoming adversity and promoting self-help ideas, Oprah’s 2005 number one best-seller, Make the Connection: Ten Steps to a Better Body and Better Life, received one of the world’s highest advance fees.

Why You Should Write Consider a Thought Leadership Book

As you can see from the examples above, thought leadership is about sharing your experiences and know-how to influence, educate, and motivate your audience.

And what better way to share your expertise than through a thought leadership book?

Content for a thought leadership book, like the ones written by Ramsey, Godin, and Oprah, is born entirely from your unique knowledge and perspective.

If you have authority on a topic in a niche industry, then you have a valuable insight to share with the world.

And sharing your expertise through a thought leadership book is a great way to show the world that you are a leader in your trade.

However, as a busy professional, you may be thinking that there’s no way you’ll find the time needed to write a book. You are not alone in this dilemma. Many industry leaders have a lot to say, but no time to write. And many of them turn to ghostwriters to get their books complete.

If you consider hiring a ghostwriter to author your thought leadership book, it is essential to know that working with a ghostwriter doesn’t mean you consent to the control of your book. You work with the ghostwriter to ensure your thoughts are the final result. The thought leadership ghostwriter is there to help you produce your book while saving you time.

The Bottom Line

Working one’s way up from a first-time publisher to a recognized industry thought leader doesn’t happen instantly, but if you stick to your guns (and hire a ghostwriter, if needed), becoming a thought leader brings countless benefits.

Elevate your brand and reputation, strengthen your industry visibility, and receive top dollar for your service!

Deirdre Paige 

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