Thought leaders tend to be the most successful professionals in their respective fields. Furthermore, in the research literature, there’s a general consensus that being a thought leader can make a very significant and positive difference to the bottom line.

When you think of the term thought leader, what comes to mind? Some professionals take a very expansive view of the term, wrapping internal strategy and corporate culture into their definition, while other professionals view the term more conservatively. The term actually has many definitions.

My definition highlights the potentially exponential rewards derived from being a thought leader. No one can possibly be a thought leader unless they’re capitalizing on the dramatically enhanced brand equity the title brings. Consider the following two-part definition:

Definition, Part One

A thought leader is a professional the affluent, centers of influence and even competitors recognize as one of the foremost authorities in a certain specialization, resulting in the person being the go-to individual for that expertise.

We now move to the second part of the definition—the commercial component:

Definition, Part Two

A thought leader is a professional that significantly profits from being recognized as such.

Professionals are in businesses to make money. Their objective, whether accomplished through products, services or both, is to do a top-notch job for their affluent clients and make money while doing so.

Let’s consider a tax accounting firm that wants to become a thought leader. A new law comes out that will have a dramatic effect on the finances of the wealthy. For the firm to appear as a thought leader, the tax partners have to do a lot more than merely regurgitate the new law. Yet that’s what most professionals do—just repeat the basics