The Successful Lawyer: Thought Leadership; The New Trend – Tosin Ajose Popoola


Dear Colleagues,

Today I’m talking about Thought Leadership, very recently I stumbled on this phrase on LinkedIn and I wondered what it meant and the sudden trend of same on social media. Some of my connections had the phrase: “Thought Leader” in their respective bios. So, Wikipedia came to my rescue “A thought leader is an individual or firm that is recognized as an authority in a specialized field and whose expertise is sought and often rewarded. Thought leaders are commonly asked to speak at public events, conferences or webinars to share their insight with a relevant audience[1]

Armed with this definition, I began to wonder, is this a title? If it’s a title, is it a self-made or owned title? Better still, is it a given title?  My wondering has not ended, I’m still wondering!

Thought Leaders are known to be invited for speaking engagements, they are sought for solutions. With the limit on social gathering, we’ve all taken to webinars, Thought Leaders are sought after at these webinars. Does that mean everyone who has ever been invited to speak at a webinar or moderate a session at a webinar is a Thought Leader? What value is there in being a Thought Leader? What makes a Thought Leader? And finally, how can you become a Thought Leader? I urge you to ruminate over these posers for a while.

Now, in very simple English, a Thought Leader is a person who is deeply knowledgeable in a designated area and ready to impact the knowledge. A thought leader is an industry expert who shares his or her expertise with a broader audience for the purpose of educating, improving, and adding value to the industry as a whole. Thought Leaders are people who fully immerse themselves in everything about their industries; they not only understand the inner workings of their businesses, but they also know their audiences and competitions.[2] Thought Leadership is not a status attained overnight, it takes deliberate effort, consistency and integrity to attain. The aim here is to become an expert who is sought after and equally get reasonable and adequate reward or compensation for the expertise. While skills, qualifications, certifications, trainings and experience among others contribute to becoming an expert in any industry and more so in the legal industry, we must ensure that our targeted audience know us, for indeed and of a truth, Thought Leader should be what you’re called and not what you call yourself, how then can you be called a Thought Leader if you’re not known? Accordingly, I have called the first step, let the Industry know you, how? You may ask, the answer is simple, by providing value, by steering intelligent conversations. Now, it does not stop at this, there is a need to go further let the Industry have faith in you. The process is simple, be a person of integrity, remain trustworthy and committed to a cause that does not only benefit you but also others. And the last is let the Industry hear your story, everyone has a story, please share yours, people tend to trust more in a person or brand, whose story they know and can relate with, while I urge you to tell your story, please be honest in the process and get rid of exaggeration.

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When the Industry knows you, has faith in you and has heard your story, you gain goodwill and trust. Oh! is goodwill and trust financial reward? I hear you loud and clear. Yes, it is financial reward and more. The built goodwill and trust will eventually translates to financial gain.

Here is a very good one, Thought Leaders are prophets they have the gift of foresight and can successfully predict the future of a subject. It’s not magic, they’ve studied their Industry and the subjects embedded in same! Due to this peculiar characteristic, policy makers tend to seek out Thought Leaders in a specific field before making any policy. I’m sure the sought advice and opinion are not free, so you have your financial reward.

I understand that with all I’ve said above, you may still be wondering; how do I start? Can I even be a Thought Leader? Be rest assured, it is possible if you’re willing to commit to it and I urge you to follow these steps.

  1. Carve a Niche: This is not a cliché, you cannot afford to be a jack of all trade, if your aim is to become a Thought Leader, identify an area of interest and stick with it. Remember my post on Gains of Specialization? (please click on this link) Becoming a Thought Leader is one of the gains of specialization.
  1. Create Content: After carving a niche for yourself, you must create content, provide value and share your experience. Since the aim is to let the Industry know you, the easy way to get the required identification and recognition is to write and/or speak to the audience in that Industry.
  1. Remain Consistent: It is very paramount to remain consistent, be in their faces, keep writing, keep speaking, be unapologetic with your appearance. Repeatedly demonstrate that you know about this Industry.
  1. Contribute Always: When intellectual discussions on your Industry are held, make contributions, what better way to show or display your expertise!
  1. Add Value: Finally, please add value, no matter what it takes. Add value, impact the next generation, don’t keep the knowledge to yourself, honour speaking engagements, submit articles for publications, let your opinion be heard and get engaged.
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 I hope to see you become a Thought Leader! Thank you.

Oluwatosin Ajose Popoola, ‘Tosin is a lawyer, content creator and blogger, she is passionate about law and its numerous instruments. She can be contacted at:

[1] Wikipedia



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