10 Simple Steps to Unleashing the Thought Leader Within You!

by Chris C. Ducker · 22 comments

Thought Leader, Public SpeakingEvery entrepreneur in their right mind should be working their tail off to be seen as a thought leader – someone who innovates and leads – in their industry.

In the ‘olden days’ of business, this would have meant putting in those 10,000 hours that everyone assumes you need to clock-up to get yourself to ‘expert status’ in a chosen niche. However, as I’ve been saying time and time again recently – things have changed.

We’re no longer in the 80’s, where the thought of small businesses having a client base all around the world was just as far fetched as the idea of being able to converse with those customers using something as ridiculous as ‘electronic mail’ – even though email is now the number one ‘tool’ used in business every minute of every day.

Being Found and Making an Impression.

Being found, getting noticed and fundamentally becoming remembered for what you do and how you do it is easier today than it ever has been in the history of western civilization.

It’s awesome!

We now live in a world where as long as we have thoughts, ideas and experiences, we’re in a position to help people and become recognized as the go-to source of up-to-date, innovative and game-changing information in any given sector.

Nowadays, the internet (and all the bells and whistles that it comes with) enables anyone with relevant experience in a certain industry to spend time researching on competition, focusing in on a their chosen niche and then positioning themselves as a thought leader in that space. And this all happens a hell of a lot quicker than it has traditionally taken in the past. Sometimes in a matter of just a few weeks, or months!

Really – It Truly IS ‘Our Time’!

As an entrepreneur and business owner, I regard myself – with 22-years of professional experience under my belt (10 of those years as a fully fledged entrepreneur) as someone that certainly has a lot to offer to those with less knowledge, or experience when it comes to my chosen niche of doing business in the 21st century – especially when it comes to the outsourcing side of that overall ‘New Business’ strategy.

Less than 3-years ago I was a nobody in the world of online business. However, today – even though I don’t claim to be the biggest name online (not by a loooong shot!) – I’m blessed to have thousands of subscribers and followers that tune in weekly to my blog, podcast, YouTube channel, Facebook community and other online offerings. All because they want to take their business to the next level by learning from me, and because I do my best to create the most actionable and game-changing content possible to enable exactly THAT to happen!

I’ve been featured in Entrepreneur Magazine (twice), on the cover of Globalization Today (the outsourcing industry’s periodical bible), listed as one of ‘The Rise to the Top’s’ 20 Unconventional Entrepreneurs, along with business author heavyweights Tim Ferriss, Chris Guillibeau and Seth Godin (yes, I’m on a list with them!), mentioned on news programs via the BBC and Forbes, been called the ‘King of Outsourcing’ and interviewed on more podcasts and other press mediums than I can remember.

None of this happened by luck.

It happened because I worked my ass off to get the recognition I craved (and if I’m being totally honest, deserved) from my peers and those associated with my peers in one way or another.

And, I’m here to tell you that you too can achieve exactly the same results!

How You Can Become a ‘Thought Leader’, too!

As of today, we are officially on the first day of the last quarter of the year. Did you not know? If not, why not? You should. As a business owner, or wannapreneur you should be planning your company’s growth at least 2-3 quarters in advance. I do, and have done for years.

With that being said, I want to try and inspire all of you to work your behinds off in the next 90-days, and finish out the year on top of your game, and in a whole different light, in regards to the way that people look at you, and more importantly, look TO you, as someone that knows how to take care of business in a big way!

So, I’ve created this list of ten so-simple-you’ll-kick-yourself-for-not-coming-up-with-them-yourself tips and insights to keep in mind when going all-out to positioning yourself as a thought leader within your own chosen industry, or niche.

Here we go…

#1 – Thought Leaders Have an Abundance of Passion

If you don’t have plenty of passion, which is obvious to see to the naked eye of your would-be followers, stop and rethink your entire game! Without passion you’re not going to come across as someone who knows what they are talking about, or gets things done!

Look at Gary Vaynerchuk. Although he’s been a little quiet this year (to build his own company!), when Gary hit the speaking scene back in 2008 he did so in a HUGE WAY. He was everywhere. He was shouting, screaming and swearing at massive crowds all around the world and through his blog, to get his point and insights across. The result was a following that grew into the millions.

Without passion you’re not going to be memorable. At all.

#2 – Thought Leaders Have Market Respect

Chris Ducker - Entrepreneur Magazine Shoot

This is me having my photo taken for the second feature Entrepreneur Magazine did on me and my businesses… Awesome!

You have to be able to ‘prove’ your worth in your chosen niche.

Take myself as an example (why not, I mean it is MY blog, right!?) – I give out plenty of tips on outsourcing and working with virtual assistants.

I have a decade of experience in this market sector (which is fully checkable) and employ hundreds of people across three different companies, within the industry.

Who would you rather follow and talk to about outsourcing? Someone who gets invited and flown around the world to speak at international events on the subject, as well as someone that has helped hundreds of entrepreneurs find and incorporate quality VA’s into their overall business plans for growth – or, someone that has ‘maybe’ used a VA themselves in the past and only been talking about the subject of virtual assistants for a couple of years

If you’re a smart businessperson, it’s a no-brainer.

So, make sure you’ve earned your stripes, or forget about it!

#3 – Thought Leaders Know Other Thought Leaders

Rub shoulders with the best that you can find. Both online, AND offline. I read somewhere recently that we become the average of the five people we talk and hang out with the most. 

So, network like mad. Make the right friends and allies for the RIGHT REASONS, and be sure to get out of your office and attend some conferences and events – even if it means getting on a plane. I’ve lived in the Philippines for 12-years, but that doesn’t stop me from attending and speaking at events all around the world several times each year.

The great thing here is that once you’ve created the right connections, those thought leaders themselves will naturally start mentioning you to their followers, subscribers, readers, etc., on a regular basis. This instantly promotes you to their level and status, too!

It’s like guilt by association – but, in reverse!

#4 – Thought Leaders Have Market Reach

As my good buddy Pat Flynn always says, you need to “Be Everywhere”. Your face, your name, your logo, your brand – what you want to be known for!

If you’re literally ‘everywhere’ people will see you, they’ll recognize you, and they’ll know you for what you stand for and for being the real deal.

Share the Tweetable:
The old adage ‘Fake it ,’til you make it!’ is BS! People can see right through that crap nowadays! [Tweet This!]

Work hard. Be interviewed, get featured on the radio, in magazines and talked about by other people. Twitter is great for that type of stuff as its so quick and easy to send out a tweet. For example – look at my ‘Tweetable’ above… Did you click the link? If not, do it now and find out what I’m talking about!

No, really… Do it NOW!

#5 – Thought Leaders Know What They Stand For

Generally speaking, this is the biggie. If you start off on one particular journey, focusing on becoming a thought leader in one particular niche, you can’t change your mind a few months into it, because it’s not ‘working out’ for you.

You can evolve and grow, of course. Brining more value to your followers in the process.

But, ultimately you have to stand by what you believe in, what you stand for. If you want to be the biggest thought leader in the ‘professional dog walking’ niche, then you better not only know how to walk dogs, but you better love it, and stick with it!

#6 – Thought Leaders Blog, Podcast and Star in Online Video

Blogging will enable your voice to be heard. The secret is to post consistently excellent content, not just ‘filler’, or fluff. As we discuss in the 7-Day ‘New Business’ Bootcamp, make sure your content is actionable (makes people take action), easy enough for ‘beginners’ in your niche to follow, and most importantly, original. It’s tough to be completely original nowadays, as there is simply just so much stuff out there on any given subject.

However, bringing your own voice to the piece of content you’re creating, along with relevant experience and personal stories – whether it is written, audio or video – is sometimes all you need to do to make it ‘your own’.

#7 – Thought Leaders Become Book Authors

Getting a book traditionally published, or even self-publishing a title is literally like walking around with a $19.99 business card.

Failing a ‘physical’ book, putting together a great eBook (Kindle books are all the rage right now) is a great way to be able to instantly boost your persona and gain more market share as a potential thought leader.

Again, make sure you include lots of examples of your experience in the niche you’re wanting to become known in, to ‘sell’ people one why they need to follow your work, and follow up with great reader replies, too, if people reach out to you.

Although you might not become rich from the book’s sales, you will get busy, that’s for sure!

#8 – Thought Leaders Thrive On Stage

Public speaking comes hand-in-hand with becoming a thought leader. It’s really very simple – you’re seen as an expert. People will pay to be in an audience to hear your speak on your chosen topics of choice.

I’ve personally spoken at events in the USA, UK, Thailand and the Philippines in the last couple of years. Is preparing for live events hard work? Absolutely. Is the pay off worth all the work – oh, yes.

If you’ve not done a lot of speaking before, start off looking towards local colleges and community centers to get your feet wet. Then, once you’ve gained some experience and confidence, approach some small companies and perhaps some non-profits about speaking at their events.

Eventually, the large conferences and expo’s will start knocking on your door.

NOTE: I have just been confirmed as a speaker at the upcoming New Media Expo, which takes place in Vegas, January 2013. I look forward to hopefully seeing some of you there!

#9 – Thought Leaders are Featured in the Press

Cover of Digital Marketing Monthly MagazineGetting your name and brand in magazines, journals or even newspapers is a lot easier than a lot of people think. Especially in todays digital world. Here’s an image of me scoring the front cover of ‘Digital Marketing Monthly‘, an iPad publication that goes out to thousands of readers, monthly.


Download the magazine app, click ‘subscribe’, select ‘current subscribers’ and then enter the code ‘3months’ and you’ll get this issue, plus two more absolutely FREE!

I was contacted by the publisher of this magazine about the feature, however, sometimes simply contacting the reporting department with a great piece of information, or content is all that’s needed to get your foot through the door.

Ultimately, when starting out, nobody will know you, so you’ll have to ask for coverage. Just like I did, and just like everyone else has to when they are at the beginning of their mission to be noticed.

Start off by contacting a handful of podcast hosts and favorite industry bloggers. Then perhaps write an article and send it into your local newspaper – perhaps, if it’s good enough, it’ll get picked up by a syndicated partner, nationally.

Bottom line – if you don’t ask, you won’t get!

#10 – Thought Leaders Become Advocates for their Industry

If you’re going to be known as someone who is a go-to person in a niche, then you better LOVE that niche. You have to get behind it all the way. And never stop talking about it, advocating it, preaching about it.

Holding some webinars (regardless of your list size), is a great way to be seen as someone ‘doing something positive’ in their industry. Not only that, but you can record the webinar and then either cut it up and use it to promote yourself on YouTube in several video clips, or you can have it transcribed into an eBook, or even turn it into an informational product and sell it online, creating passive income!

See where I’m going with all this? Just do something. Make it great and get it out there – in any and every way possible.


I’ve personally started seven different businesses, all of which have done relatively well (except one that tanked!), both in the ‘real’ world and the online world – for ouf them in the last 10-years.

I’ve also helped several other entrepreneur’s set-up many, many more in the form of a friendly coffee chat, or through my consultant services. And although I’m now seen as someone to turn to for information on my chosen niche topic(s), I have to be honest and say – I’ve learned something, personally, from every single business I’ve started, or helped startup.

That’s what I love about being an entrepreneur… you never stop learning.

Becoming the leader in your field might not be your biggest goal in life. However, from personal experience I can tell you, it sure as hell helps grow your businesses and have a lot of fun in the process – so, spend a little time thinking about it. Okay?

Has this post left you with more questions, than answers? Or, have I given you a good enough springboard to get started on your own personal ‘thought leader’ missions?!!

Please comment, as always, below. I love hearing from you.

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

steve wyman September 29, 2012 at 13:23

Hi Chris

Interesting insights from a thought leader.

#5 is so important. To many guru’s and blog owners are advocates for the current fad and the slightless issues and they no longer believe in what they said yesterday.


Chris C. Ducker September 30, 2012 at 00:36

Like I said, faking it til you make it doesn’t work anymore.

You truly DO need to earn your stripes to be fully respected, I feel. And you can’t do that from test driving a niche every other week!




Nica Mandigma September 29, 2012 at 15:04

This is a tall order but it is my goal to become a thought leader in my niche, even if it’s just in my country. I like to believe that I’m on my way to becoming that but I still have a lot of steps to go through. There’s a lot of work to be done! Gotta earn my stripes.


Chris C. Ducker September 30, 2012 at 00:35

You’re on your way, Nica, for sure.

Keep your head down, work hard – very hard – and you’ll be where you are meant to be, and where you want to be, sooner than you know it!



Jamie Alexander September 29, 2012 at 23:47

That’s a nice list of things everyone should be striving for. Another one I think is big, and it maybe applies to more people outside the online marketing niche, is for people to live inside their niche. (obviously online marketers are doing this by blogging)

People need to experiment in their niche and bring new ideas to the table. Find better ways of doing stuff. Not just Googling topics and writing about them. Speak from your own head, not what you’ve researched.


Chris C. Ducker September 30, 2012 at 00:33

Great points, Jamie.

Love your idea of ‘speaking from your own head’… Couldn’t agree more.

Thanks for dropping by.



David Bain September 30, 2012 at 04:46

Hi Chris

Thanks again for agreeing to be featured for Digital Marketing Monthly!

Yes, we can couch that #9 is certainly true.

I edit the magazine, and each month we focus on one core digital marketing topic. Therefore, every month, once we decide the topic focus, I search for people who are authorities on that particular niche.

I won’t bother to contact people who have written small, insignificant 400-word articles (mainly for search engine fodder than anything else).

I search for people who write lengthy, original pieces with unique angles on the topic I want to feature. Those are the people I want to interview.

Anyone has the capacity to feature in the press/magazines. You just have to go that extra mile and demonstrate that you offer real value first.


Chris C. Ducker October 1, 2012 at 00:44

Hi David

Thanks for dropping by, and again, for allowing me to grace the cover of your excellent digital mag, too!

I love the way that you are VERY focused on how you’re doing what you’re doing. I was involved in the publishing game for a long time in the UK many moons ago, and know how hard it is to figure out who you’ll feature and who you won’t.

The fact that you’re already very clear on the type of authors / personalities you want to feature is a massive step in the right direction, for ALL concerned – especially your readers.

Excellent stuff.



Brendan Baker October 1, 2012 at 07:48


You absolutely nailed every aspect on it’s head. I completely agree that you require all of the above essential elements to stand out from the crowd, be a thought-leader and to be able to take your passion to the next level.

Good stuff… keep ‘em coming.



Chris C. Ducker October 1, 2012 at 08:08

Hi Brendan

Thanks, bud – super happy you enjoyed it so much. I kind of took on a completely different direction once I got into it! Hence the ridiculous word count, too!

Longest post ever for me, I think!




Shari Larkin October 1, 2012 at 10:30

Hi Chris,
Great article. I am certainly aspiring to become that thought leader, but there always is a fear factor in the beginning. Would love to get a follow up article on how to overcome the fear factor and gain credibility when your just starting out. Thanks again for the great insights.


Chris C. Ducker October 1, 2012 at 11:28

Hi Shari

I’ll see what I can put together – I’m sure you’re not the only one feeling that way and I’d love to try and help out.

Stay tuned.



Shari Larkin October 3, 2012 at 10:11

Thanks a bunch Chris. Appreciate it. Really, great article.


Stacey October 1, 2012 at 11:42



Stacey October 1, 2012 at 10:53

Hi Chris,

This was a great post, and many of the points you highlighted made complete sense. However, there was one thing I found confusing and slightly contradictory, and I was hoping you might be able to shed some light. You say:

“In the ‘olden days’ of business, this would have meant putting in those 10,000 hours that everyone assumes you need to clock-up to get yourself to ‘expert status’ in a chosen niche. However, as I’ve been saying time and time again recently – things have changed”

You then go on to say:
“Who would you rather follow and talk to about outsourcing? {missing text} So, make sure you’ve earned your stripes, or forget about it!”

How does this work for the new entrepreneur/business owner?
Someone who unlike yourself, doesn’t have 20+ years’ experience in business in some context or another. Let’s say, someone starting a dog walking business who is fairly new to the niche, (say one year) and in many ways is learning their craft as they build their business. How do they position themselves as an expert when they are clearly not? And if they can’t position themselves as an expert, how do they compete, i.e. get in the game and start winning?

It would seem that in order to have any success with your business (especially online), you need to have credibility/clout, and, you need to be seen, or at least perceived to be an expert? But even experts start out knowing nothing!

If you “no longer need to have 10000 hours” under your belt….but….”you can forget it if you haven’t already earned your stripes” – what exactly is the entry point for those people new to their niche/business, who aren’t experts now, but certainly plan to dominate in the future?

I see many online “experts” talking about how people can become industry leaders with a little ‘Google research’. But surely, it takes time, experience; failures and success- before you are in anyway credibly position yourself as a thought leader. No one could have the knowledge that you have about outsourcing from two weeks blog hoping, and hiring a VA for a few research tasks. And, someone like yourself would be able to spot this inexperience in a heartbeat…but what about the guy who knows even less!

It seems like it’s being said (and not just by you) that unless you have tried, tested and timely experience in an area, you have ‘no business’, trying to create ‘a business’ out of it? Maybe I have totally misunderstood?

I know this comment is long & full of questions, but I hope it makes sense and is taken in the inquiring and humble spirit in which I meant it, But there are so many conflicting messages out there -often coming from people you respect – that it can be really rather confusing and at times even disheartening, for ‘wannapreneurs’ just starting out and getting their feet wet.


Chris C. Ducker October 1, 2012 at 11:27

Great comment, Stacy.

I can understand where the confusion is here. And I’m sure you’re not alone – so stop feeling that way. The fact is that although things have changed, although is IS easier to become an expert today than it has been in the future, you do still need to have some kind of ‘background’ in the industry that you are wanting to become recognized in. It’s just a simple act of life, I mean, how can someone be seen as an expert if they cant prove that they’ve got a certain number of years in ‘the game’, so to speak.

But, you bring up a good point. To some people (that are just getting going, literally), it wont take much to be seen as an expert. And this is why you can still position yourself as one, easily. The most important thing is that you’re legit with the way you position yourself. If you’ve only been walking dogs for a year, then be honest and say that – your readers will appreciate it, and you’ll still be seen as someone that knows more than they do.

Anyway, I’m sure you get my drift.

Thanks again for the comment.



Fred Holmes October 2, 2012 at 20:07

Outstanding post, thoughtful and thought provoking. In addition, it proves its premise in the quality of presentation and moreover, the thoughtful and insightful comments it has elicited.

Ms. Shari Larkin commented on overcoming the ‘fear factor’ attendant on striving to achieve thought leader status in her chosen area of endeavor. I submit that overcoming the fear factor is the singlemost important achievement between a person and his or her success or failure in any business or personal activity.

One must always remember infancy and the numerous times the fanny met the floor on the way to success at walking for the first time. I’ve never met a single person who learned anything useful from his successes. It’s only the failures that are instructive and it’s the failures most of us fear, irrational as it may seem.

So Shari, take the reins and send the team down the track. If you fail, you learn, and when you learn, you close in on success, so plan on failing fast and often, and don’t let fear stand in the way.

All the very best


Chris C. Ducker October 2, 2012 at 22:38

Fear can be your worst enemy in business – but, also your best friend, too.

Hmmm… I feel a blog post coming on!

Appreciate you dropping by and commenting, Fred.



Michael Bryant October 2, 2012 at 22:52

Chris thanks so much the personal email that you sent me from a previous discussion. You are my thought leader when it comes to personal connections and responding to people. Your guest post on Think Traffic has stimulated my thinking about who is my ideal reader. This post had helped me realize that I need to focus on my 30 year back ground in adventure recreation, even if I am not sure how to connect it to an online business. Thanks again.


Chris C. Ducker October 3, 2012 at 07:58

You’re welcome, Michael. My pleasure.

I’m humbled that you think that way of me, and very lucky to have you and all the other CD subscribers out there, helping to make this site the community that its becoming! It’s awesome.

I am sure that you can monetize something within that niche further down the line. As for now, don’t think about that – just focus on the content you create, the connections you make.

Onwards and upwards, buddy!



Joseph October 3, 2012 at 08:38

Chris this is an awesome post. Next level $shit. By that, I mean these are actionable items that inspire and enable us to become truly great business people, not merely lifestyle designers with some ideas and an e-book. Seems to be consistent with the overall message of your new platform. Cheers.


Chris C. Ducker October 3, 2012 at 08:59

Hi Joseph

Your comment made my day, mate. Thank you.

I’m glad that the ‘message’ is coming through loud and clear. THAT’S what its all about!


Thanks again for dropping by.



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