I remember when I first started my coaching business and the idea of saying I was an expert gave me a queasy feeling in my stomach. After all, who was I to say I was an expert? Wouldn't that be bragging or worse - wouldn't I be laughed at if I didn't know the answer to a question?
These thoughts and feelings come up for many people when they begin their businesses. Yet it's a necessary evil because having expert status has always been a cornerstone of your brand.
After all you don't typically see commercials for "we kind of know what we're doing" you see commercials for "we are the BEST at solving your problem."
Positioning yourself as an expert is important because people want to work with service providers that deeply understand what they're going through and can expertly guide them to a solution. They are going to hire the person they trust to take good care of them.
The problem is that when everyone is positioning themselves as experts it becomes increasingly difficult to stand out in the marketplace, and naturally a new echelon of expert as emerged - the thought leader.
A thought leader goes beyond expert status- they aren't just sharing knowledge, they have a message to share and challenge the way you think about a subject.
It's a term I've been hearing more and more over the last year. I've even been using it myself when I describe my ideal clients.
You see an expert possesses a special skill or knowledge in a particular area. They are a trusted adviser, they can do things for you, or tell you how to do things you couldn't do yourself because you haven't reached the same level of mastery.
A thought leader doesn't just tell you something though, a thought leader helps you experience it for yourself and draw your own conclusions.
A thought leader has so much expertise in their area that they have the confidence to challenge the status quo and introduce new paradigms. They demonstrate their mastery by stepping out of the box.
They have a mission and a message that they are passionate about sharing with the world.
If you want people to hire you to do something then being an expert is enough. If your goal is to effect change and inspire people to change the way they look at the world then positioning yourself as a thought leader is essential.
So the question is, are you an expert or a thought leader?