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BLOGThe Longevity Thought Leadership Test

by Randall CraigFiled in: Make It Happen Tipsheet, Blog, Career Planning, Thought Leadership, TrustTagged as: ,

One of the most disappointing conversations that I had with a so-called Thought Leader, was back in 2012. Focus on the word “so-called.”

The Longevity Thought Leadership Test

I was talking to someone at a conference who had seen a presentation I had done on digital strategy, when he said that he, too, was a digital strategy thought leader. I was looking forward to finding out his background, so asked what he’d done before: he said that he was a customer service thought leader. And before that? Real estate sales. And before that? He was an expert on Y2K. And before that? He sold vacuum cleaners.

While the discussion was almost comical, it begged the question: how long does it take to be recognized as an expert — let alone a thought leader — in a particular subject area?

While Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, specifies that 10,000 hours of “practice” are necessary to develop expertise, developing thought leadership isn’t necessarily the same thing. A better “how long” answer would be this: long enough to develop a significant enough edge in expertise over others, and to be recognized by others for it.

Or said another way: The longer one remains an expert, the deeper one’s knowledge is. The Longevity test is designed to filter out people who become “instant experts”, like our Digital Strategy-Customer Service-Real Estate-Y2K-Vacuum cleaner person. An expert who has been in a field for 20 years is more likely to be a thought leader than an expert who has been in the field for only five.


Longevity as an indicator is helpful for weeding out the instant experts, but it does NOT follow that just because you have been in an area for a long period of time, that you are an expert… or a thought leader. You may actually be perceived as out-of-date! This week, guard against this risk by making sure that your audience sees other evidence of your thought leadership: new content, research, presentations, media profile, etc.

Related Post: Try the next Thought Leadership test: Acing the Google Thought Leadership Test

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