Becoming a Thought Leader in the Asia-Pacific: What You Need To Know

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Thought leadership in the Asia-Pacific, while booming, is still dwarfed by those in the West. The US continues to hold a massive lead in terms of media distribution, knowledge acquisition and dissemination, and the advantage of having English as a unifying language as compared to the multiple ones we have here in the Asia-Pacific, according to Terence Lee of Tech in Asia. However, the practice of thought leadership here never ceases to improve and develop, and living in a different region and culture from the big shots may offer some brand-new discoveries and insights never seen before. The current climate in thought leadership here in the Asia-Pacific offers a jackpot of opportunities for the aspiring thought leader who seeks to bring progress and change.

So what is thought leadership, and what constitutes a thought leader? There are many definitions that get thrown around, but it is generally agreed upon that thought leadership has to add value. Establishing thought leadership involves “thought”, wherein content has to be well-deliberated on and in turn provides something for the audience to think about, and “leadership,” where said insights aim to lead the audience to a beneficial action or end. Becoming a thought leader would require one to be an expert in the “thoughts” they seek to impart. 

Find Your Specialty

The first step is to figure out what kind of thought leadership content would you like to focus on. What can you confidently inform and discourse about? What is your field of expertise? Your specialty will separate you from everyone else, and when people need that specific type of expertise, you would be the one they approach.

Famous thought leaders in the Asia-Pacific have distinguished themselves over the niche they have acquired for themselves. Jeremy Chew, content marketing head of Malaysia-based price comparison site iPrice Group, shares thought leadership pieces on the state of e-commerce in Southeast Asia. David Thomas is well-known as “The China Expert” in Australia for his strides in promoting the potential of doing business in China and the rest of Asia-Pacific. Lianjun Li from Hong Kong specializes in litigation and arbitration in trade and shipping. In becoming a thought leader, you require not only a substantial knowledge of the topic but also a desire to keep pursuing said knowledge and finding ways to make it useful.

Create Content

Next is the content creation process. Here is where the “leadership” aspect of thought leadership comes in. The goal of every thought leader is to offer something new, something that will move forward existing thought and serve to improve existing practices. When your audience looks through your content, they do not expect something easily Googled or a promotion of your latest product or service. They want something different, useful, revolutionary.

These can be done in many different ways. You can provide data, news, and other information and dissect them to form conclusions and recommendations. You can speculate or spot possible trends, innovations and issues that may crop up in the future. You can share some of your personal experiences as an expert and impart lessons you have learned along the way. There may be current practices or ways of thinking that may actually be counterproductive or harmful, and you want to argue and prove that it is so. In all of these, there is a different angle or perspective that you want to address and disseminate based on your own experience and research.

Three thought leaders, Kathy Matsui, Makoto Takano and Paul McInerney, discuss Japan’s journey in becoming a startup nation (from Asia Pacific)

Apart from what you have to say, it also matters how you say it. Readers or viewers are eager to see why they should trust you and what they have to gain. Provide ample proof that your opinions are substantiated and valuable. Discuss how they can use the information they will gain to progress. To become a thought leader that people will listen to, it is also important that you can communicate in a way that doesn’t alienate people who are less well-versed in the topic as you are. The tone of your content should be welcoming and easy to digest. It should be confident of your authority in the matter, but at the same time retain an open-mindedness to accept new ideas and gain more knowledge. 

Marika Callangan, a Filipina thought leader of art for women empowerment, shares her experience in TEDx Talks

What you need to decide next is where to share your thought leadership content. Nachum Langsner of COSE provides some possible options to work with, such as the company blog, LinkedIn, Youtube and podcasting. You can also coordinate with media outlets to write guest articles for them. There are many webinars and events that invite famous thought leaders for their input, and you can keep a close eye on them and see if you can participate as a speaker or host. Organizations such as Asia Insight Circle, ULI Asia Pacific and Asia Society arrange platforms for thought leaders’ voices to be heard.

In this attention economy, establishing thought leadership should both be consistent, yet still high-quality, and visible, which can be aided by smart use of social media (SEO keywords, hashtags, etc.). Your credibility is a long-term project that must be maintained, and the content you put out should reflect that.

Continue To Learn And Connect

Thought leaders thrive on information; it is their bread and butter to deliver quality content. Be up to date on news, trends, research publications and anything related to your field of expertise. Being static only spells your end in today’s VUCA world. Connect with other famous thought leaders and exchange knowledge; that way you can also make yourselves visible as an aspiring thought leader. Do not forget to attend to your audience as well. Find out what they have troubles with, how they understood your content, gain feedback, and apply them to your next piece. This way, you can become a thought leader that people flock to not only for your insights, but also for your personality and willingness to help. Leaders in general are expected to know their followers in order to best guide them, and thought leaders are no exception.

Thought leadership has been a rising trend among businesses and organizations. An impact study by LinkedIn and Edelman shows that 48% of B2B decision-makers spend an hour or more engaging in thought leadership content, with 29% saying that they gain valuable insights from it. Information, attention and credibility are all integral to any brand or person wishing to be successful, and thought leadership provides an avenue to obtaining these assets in the currently highly-competitive market.

Need more help with becoming a thought leader? Schedule a FREE 20-min. consultation with Ambidextr today in our Calendly link:

Visual by: John Dave Isono

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