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Do your peers often seek out your insight or advice on subjects they might be pondering?  Can you point out individuals whose opinions you trust and who you might turn to for advice?  A “thought leader” by definition is someone whose views on a subject are taken to be authoritative and influential. 

At a recent Transportation Marketing and Sales Association conference I had the opportunity to participate in a Thought Leadership Workshop where we discussed case studies and determined the proper outcomes by influencing the other participants to support our conclusions.

During the workshop, participants were asked to name thought leaders in the area of transportation and logistics. I was honored to be identified as one of these role models, which led me to wonder how someone becomes a thought leader, and why others perceive him or her to be influential.

How do you become a thought leader? You must first identify your passion, Denise Brousseau, of the Thought Leadership Lab, suggests you define a future you are committed to transform, test your ideas on others and look for people who can help you promote this change.  Be the leader, but teach others how to expand on your mission, then, connect with as wide an audience as possible and move the momentum forward.

According to Lauren Hockenson, in an article on Mashable.com, a thought leader differs from a leader by “pushing the boundaries of a particular method or industry, and then using those ideas to leverage ubiquity on social or broadcast media.”  She adds, “A thought leader had earned his or her title because the person’s ideas have gone viral.”

In 2007, if you told me the Women In Trucking (WIT) Association would have 4,000 members in seven countries and would include carriers, drivers, suppliers, manufacturers, and training facilities, I would have been in disbelief.  How did we gain this influence?   We have a passion to increase the percentage of women employed in the transportation industry and we have built momentum with our partners and our members.

Thought Leaders, writes Brousseau, “are changing the world in meaningful ways and engage others to join their efforts.”  In doing so, she adds, “they provide a method, process, guidelines or a set of best practices,” for others to follow.

A primary goal identified by the WIT Board of Directors is to be a resource.  We want the association to be the first stop for any information carriers, legislators, regulators, and media are seeking. In order to be recognized as an authority, we need good, unbiased information including facts, quotes and relevant data.  This is why we reach out to our members for feedback and insight, as you are the people we represent.

We continue to provide information to help you support our mission.  From a “Recruiting Guide for Female Drivers,” to our “Anti-Harassment Employment Guide,” we want to take the collective knowledge of our members to share across the industry.  Soon we will have a “Best Practices” guide to increase your female driver population.

The integrity of the information is increased when there is a larger group to provide the data.  The information is more relevant and timely when the focus of the research is also interested in the collective outcomes.

Without the support of a wide network, you won’t gain the attention for your product or service and can’t expand your sphere of influence.  People want to look up to leaders who are not only passionate about the mission but have proven momentum and the support of other influential people.

A thought leader, but being in the spotlight, is taking a risk. In other words, there is an element of risk in promoting change and then identifying it as a solution, as not all ideas result in positive consequences.  Also, there will be the naysayers who prefer to denigrate your work rather than support it, but these people are usually not credible and certainly not Thought Leaders themselves. 

If you are passionate about making a difference and leaving the world a better place than when you arrived, keep pushing and expanding your influence.  You too, can become a thought leader.  Consider these words from John Maxwell, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.”

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About Ellen Voie

Ellen Voie founded the Women In Trucking Association in March of 2007, and currently serves as the nonprofit organization's President/CEO. Women In Trucking was formed to promote the employment of women in the trucking industry, remove obstacles that might keep them from succeeding, and to celebrate the successes of its members.

View Full Bio and All Posts by Ellen Voie