Some would-be marketing guru sent me an email; he opened with: “I’m honored to be a thought leader in the area of communications and leadership.”

Really? Okay, maybe he is leading thought. But I’m not following. In fact I was put off by what seemed to me like self-aggrandizement. I’m not sure you get to declare yourself a “thought leader.”

In fact, my view is more in line with the satirical talk on Thought Leadership from the Canadian radio show This is That.

However, it is true that being a thought leader is a definite advantage if you’re selling anything (and that includes selling yourself in job interviews). So much so that a San Francisco consultant wrote a book about how to become a thought leader … to increase your impact, influence, and success.

It stands to reason that when people believe you’re an expert, or even the expert in your field, they’ll want to buy from you or partner with you or listen to your sage advice. Maybe they’ll invite you to speak to their organization. Or interview you for their podcast or blog, or even for an old-fashioned article in print.

When you’re a thought leader in your industry, people acknowledge your value, one way or another. You probably will have more impact, influence, and success.

So how do you get to be one, if it’s not by merely claiming the title?

This might sound obvious, but just go with me on it. The first step to being a thought leader is … to think. I told you it was going to sound obvious, but I really mean that.

Ponder the things that affect people in your business: economic conditions, changes in technology, new competitors, demographic shifts. Study what goes on around you. Pay attention to the impact those factors have on you, consider how others in the same field are affected, and whether there’s a broader impact beyond the borders of your own industry or specialty.

Develop your own point of view. Maybe it’s a unique explanation for the conditions in your category; maybe it’s your own spin on an appropriate response. Thought leaders, by definition, aren’t following the crowd, right? They have their own perspective on things. And they might well be at odds with others, even with the conventional wisdom.

Put that point of view out into the world. You might start speaking to industry groups or more general business associations. Write an article for a trade publication. Write a blog. Or write a book!

If you want to lead, you have to be public about your point of view. That’s how you’ll attract followers. Of course they’ll respond to what you have to say; but even more so to how you say it. So by all means, if you want to be a thought leader and you could speak better or write better, work with a coach who can help you develop those skills.

Is all this starting to sound like a lot of work? Remember the benefit of being a thought leader. When your expertise is acknowledged, when you have a reputation for depth, when you’re expressing your point of view … you have the opportunity to influence people, to inspire them, motivate them and to grow your business as a result.

Are you a Thought-Leader-in-the-making? Share your point of view and tell us how you’re developing your position.