5 Things You Should Do To Become a Thought Leader In Your Industry

Check out this post with Deb Eckerling and her book Your Goal Guide

Creating content helps you — and your business — stand out, while adding a layer of authority that your prospects, customers, and audience look for when making buying decisions. This content can range from developing a thriving social media platform or crafting valuable, regular blog posts to starting a mainstream podcast or writing a traditionally published book.

While it may be a challenge to prioritize long-term projects over short-term gain, time and energy are worth it. Plus, even if you spend a little bit of time each week on your thought-leadership content, your projects will develop over time.

Aspart of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Debra Eckerling.

Debra Eckerling is the author of Your Goal Guide: A Roadmap for Setting, Planning, and Achieving Your Goals and founder of the D*E*B METHOD®. DEB stands for Determine Your Mission, Explore Your Options, Brainstorm Your Path. A communications specialist and project catalyst, she works with individuals and businesses to set goals and manage their projects through one-on-one coaching, workshops, and online support. Eckerling is also the founder of Write On Online, a website and community for writers, creatives, and entrepreneurs, and host of the #GoalChat Twitter chat and #GoalChatLive on Facebook.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

Mybackground is in project management and communication, and I have a degree is in Journalism. I started out my professional career doing events for Barnes & Noble in Schaumburg, Illinois. Whenever I needed to fill out my events calendar, I would sit in the café and chat with our customers. One of our regulars asked if I would start a writers’ support group. For me, that meant checking in with people: asking what they accomplished, what they were working on, and what their goals were for the next meeting. It was a success! As a bonus, I learned the power of goal-setting first hand.

Fast forward several years, I moved to Los Angeles and restarted my live group. This eventually became a hybrid — live and online group (these days, though, online only) — and expanded to embrace creatives and entrepreneurs.

Members started asking me to coach them, whether it was to help them create a plan to write or self-publish their book or figure out a project’s next steps. I also started speaking and leading workshops. My career has definitely been an evolution. I love helping people figure out what they want and how to get it, and am very fortunate to be able to work in an area that I love so much.

Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?

I have spent years developing my own expertise in the area of goal-setting and productivity, and even created a user-friendly system, The D*E*B Method, to illustrate my techniques and methodology.

I help individuals — mostly entrepreneurs — who want to elevate and enhance their expertise through coaching, workshops, and my book. Whether someone wants to write a book, start a blog or podcast, begin a speaking career, or do something else, my system helps them hone in on what that looks like and guides them through creating a plan to make it happen.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I have been hosting goal-setting groups — and leading workshops and coaching — under my Write On brand for many years, all while freelancing. In spring 2018 I decided it was time to embrace my niche.

I gave my goal-setting system a new name and branding: The D*E*B Method. While I was planning to self-publish my third book, which would showcase DEB, I was approached by a literary agent, who suggested I try to go mainstream. We got a response from Mango Publishing, and Mango published Your Goal Guide in January 2020. That’s less than two years after going all-in.

It just proves when you have a mission and focus, anything is possible.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I learned the lesson of “careful what you share” early on in my career. When I first moved to Los Angeles, I contributed a few singles columns to one of the local newspapers. I proudly put links to these clips on my portfolio website and even used my writing as a conversation-starter when I met new people. These were funny, slice-of-life pieces.

Shortly thereafter, I reconnected with an old boyfriend. I told him that I had been freelance writing, and shared the link to my website. Then, nothing. I wondered why I never heard back, and then realized I referred to him — not by name, but by characteristics — in one of those singles columns. Oops!

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define what a ‘Thought Leader’ is. How is a thought leader different than a typical leader? How is a thought leader different than an influencer?

Thought leaders are individuals with a solid background and an extensive base of knowledge in a particular industry, niche, or area, who get their message out there through speaking, content creation and social media.

A leader is someone with a vision who motivates others to accomplish a goal, task, or movement. An influencer is someone with authority, expertise, and relationships who impacts the decisions of others.

The best thought leaders are the ones who embrace their expertise in a way that serves a higher interest or mission. They share their knowledge so that others can learn, benefit, and in turn impact others.

Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming a thought leader. Why do you think it is worthwhile to invest resources and energy into this?

Creating content helps you — and your business — stand out, while adding a layer of authority that your prospects, customers, and audience look for when making buying decisions. This content can range from developing a thriving social media platform or crafting valuable, regular blog posts to starting a mainstream podcast or writing a traditionally published book.

While it may be a challenge to prioritize long-term projects over short-term gain, time and energy are worth it. Plus, even if you spend a little bit of time each week on your thought-leadership content, your projects will develop over time.

Let’s talk about business opportunities specifically. Can you share a few examples of how thought leadership can help a business grow or create lucrative opportunities?

Thought leadership is one of the best ways to highlight your business, consultancy, or entrepreneurship, enabling potential partners, clients, and customers to find you, buy from you, and/or hire you.

For instance, let’s say your goal is to become the top speaker on your topic or in your industry. You may start small, speaking at local gatherings or to niche groups. However, the more you speak, the more people you meet — you are networking and expanding your circle. This will likely lead to bigger and better opportunities. What started out as a way to highlight yourself, as well as your products or services, could lead to more sales, paid speaking gigs, and introductions to high-level partners.

Writing a book is another common vehicle for a rising thought leader. The ability to articulate your business knowledge levels you up considerably. Traditionally published books are ideal, as it shows another entity also has faith in your expertise. Even self-published books — as long as they are written, edited, designed, and produced professionally — are a great “business card” that instills confidence in your abilities to your prospects and customers.

Ok. Now that we have that behind us, we’d love to hear your thoughts about how to eventually become a thought leader. Can you share 5 strategies that a person should implement to become known as a thought leader in their industry. Please tell us a story or example (ideally from your own experience) for each.

Here are five strategies, based on The D*E*B Method, to guide business owners, entrepreneurs, and consultants through creating their plan to become thought leaders.

1. The first thing you need to do is Reboot Your Goals. We are living in challenging times, which makes it the perfect opportunity to give some considerable thought to what you want to create and who you want to become.

When you think about the life you want, what does that look like? Are you a 7-figure business owner or consultant? Are you an educator or motivator? What does success look like? Are you on a Forbes Top 50 List? Which list? Are you a New York Times bestselling author? Do you speak to sold-out venues? What is your thought-leader goal? Start there and work backwards.

2. Next, you want to Embrace Your Niche. Focus is key because there are many facets within any industry. For instance, if you work in fitness, your business might be creating wearable tech, manufacturing fitness gear, being a trainer, or owning a gym. So what is your specialty? And why does that hold your interest? What is your backstory?

The key ingredient for success is passion. When you are fully invested in your subject matter, it will show whenever you speak and in everything you create.

3. Now, Write Your Mission Statement. Your Mission Statement combines who you are (your unique characteristics, education, and experience) with what you want to create, along with how you will use your knowledge, skillset, and experience to benefit others.

What is the reason behind what you do? How will the information you convey through your thought leadership help others? Your mission may be to inform, entertain, educate, or assist. You may make people’s lives better or easier with some innovation, whether it’s a product or service. There are no wrong answers. Just realize your mission is your guide throughout the process.

4. Next, make a Content Creation Plan. Once you know what you want, decide which content works best with your knowledge and comfort level. If you are not a fan of the camera, a video livestream show is not your best bet. Not a fan of writing? Look into showcasing your knowledge through photos or graphics on Instagram.

5. In addition to creating content, you need to Find Your Community. Where are your ideal clients and prospects? What social media platforms are they on? Where does your industry gather online and in person? How and where can you show up and be helpful to your community? You want to find the best social media homes for sharing your thought leadership through articles, events, and resources.

The biggest challenge people have with achieving goals — in this case, the goal to become a thought leader — is they over-think or under-think the process. They do not plan. These five steps will help would-be thought leaders hone in on what they want, make a plan, and set themselves up for success.

In your opinion, who is an example of someone who has that has done a fantastic job as a thought leader? Which specific things have impressed you about that person? What lessons can we learn from this person’s approach.

LinkedIn expert Viveka von Rosen, who is co-founder and Chief Visibility Officer at Vengreso, is an amazing example of stellar thought leadership. Viveka, whose Twitter handle is @LinkedInExpert, embraced and learned everything LinkedIn early on, so she could share with her community, as well as clients.

Viveka has developed her thought leadership over the years. She has written books on LinkedIn, developed courses, and hosted podcasts. A frequent conference speaker, guest poster, and interviewee on all things LinkedIn, Viveka posts on the platform several times a day, sharing tips, tools, and new features.

All of this activity — along with content creation — solidifies her thought leadership, keeps her top of mind, and drives activity to her business. Viveka practices what she teaches and in doing so has become the go-to authority on LinkedIn.

I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?

As long as you have put in the time and effort to become the expert in your field, industry, or niche, you have earned the right to choose how you want to identify yourself. Embrace your knowledge. Then you can call yourself whatever you’d like, whether it’s an expert, a guru, or a thought leader.

What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

Self-care is key. Set regular appointments with yourself to chill out and do something to recharge. You can do this in 15-minute increments several times a week — no-tech coffee-time, meditation, or walks around the neighborhood — or block out a couple of hours once a week to enjoy a hobby, read a book, or take an exercise class. Treat your “me-time” as sacred as you would any client assignment or obligation.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Given that we live in a time of social distancing, I’d love to see a more interpersonal communication. Having actual conversations — and making emotional connections — benefits everyone! Put down the devices. Have a meal with your family, friends, or colleagues. And if you are in different places, then you can connect over Zoom. Enable Technology to bring you together, not to drive you apart.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

One of my favorite quotes is “Done is better than perfect.” You want your work to be professional quality, of course. But don’t overthink things so much that you stop yourself from putting your work out there.

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

My wish list of leaders I’d love to share a meal with includes Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson, Tim Ferriss (4-Hour Work Week), and Mark Schaefer (author of Known).

How can our readers follow you online?

Websites: TheDEBMethod.com and WriteOnOnline.com

LinkedIn: LinkedIn.com/in/Coastbunny

Facebook: Facebook.com/TheDEBMethod, Facebook.com/WriteOnOnline, Facebook.com/Groups/WriteOnOnline

Twitter: Twitter.com/TheDEBMethod, Twitter.com/WriteOnOnline

Instagram: Instagram.com/TheDEBMethod, Instagram.com/WriteOnOnline


Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful.

Your Goal Guide by Deb Eckerling (small copy)

your goal guide

A Roadmap for Setting, Planning and Achieving Your Goals

Start with a plan. One of the biggest reasons goals fail is that we often don’t put enough thought into what we really want before diving in. Your Goal Guide by Debra Eckerling starts with that first, crucial step: figuring out your goals and putting a plan in place. As a professional writer, communications specialist, and project catalyst with more than 20 years of experience, Eckerling is prepared to help you achieve success.

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