The concept is simple enough in theory: You build a reputation for yourself and your organization as the true thought leader in your area of expertise. You gain so much attention and recognition that potential clients call you because they (a) know you are there and (b) believe you truly are the most knowledgeable expert in the subject field.
If you can achieve the holy grail of real thought leadership, you will not lack for commissions/contracts and you certainly won’t need to play the “low price wins the job” game.
Well, not so . . . because of the two tough criteria for success.
First you really need to be an exceptional expert on the topic area which is relevant to your potential clients (or at least be good enough that you won’t be poked full of holes when your expertise is tested in the real world).
And secondly, your market needs to be convinced that you really are exceptional, and things will be much harder for you if there are other “thought experts” in your market space already.
You might have the good fortune to have both of the criteria in hand, and then you can simply learn the techniques of marketing yourself by writing/videoing/speaking and communicating your leadership to the target audience.
If you have expertise, but there seems to be lots of competition, your challenge is to (a) redefine your knowledge so it captures a unique, marketable concept or (b) figure out a market where you have less competition.
Undeniably, unless you stumble into success accidentally, the process of achieving true thought leadership success will need to be measured in years rather than months or weeks, so the work you do should truly match your talents and interests. You’ll also need plenty of focus and have the willingness to take the time in working in public facing activities for which you most likely won’t be able to bill for your time. (Of course, the story changes when you achieve real thought leadership — in some cases, you will earn speaking fees and royalties from your books/works — so when you succeed it really is a lot of fun.)
If you want to embark on a thought leadership strategy, I suggest you consult with some close, knowledgable colleagues and advisors to distill your strengths, interests, market potential and opportunities. Then you can develop your strategy, which may include enhancing your strengths, attending and speaking at relevant conferences, writing for trade magazine articles, and communicating with publications that serve your intended audience.
While it can be a long and difficult road, the thought leadership journey is undoubtedly worth the effort when you succeed.