Navigating Your Career > Becoming a Thought Leader

So you want to become a KOL?

Many dermatologists wonder how best to become a KOL (Key Opinion Leader) or Thought Leader.  While there is no right or wrong way to accomplish this, following are some thoughts on ways to go about it.

Ways to Enhance Your Reputation and Become a KOL

It is important to have an opinion. This may seem obvious, but many individuals who want to be well thought of avoid expressing any opinion that can be considered controversial.  While this will often win friends, it doesn’t assist others’ views of you as a person who is worth considering as a ‘leader.’

Leaders lead and it is imperative to take a stance when necessary. This doesn’t mean that the opinions should be stated in a derogatory or negative manner, but if you feel a laser is worthwhile, state it.  If you feel that a service or medication isn’t helpful, you should share that opinion. If the opinion is based on your careful observations, your colleagues or editors (if you are writing) will appreciate the sharing.  Many times, your colleagues or the company responsible for the product or service will learn from your advice and will be grateful that you saw fit to present your thoughts to them.

Ways to Not Be a KOL

Sadly, there is one other way that many physicians attempt (and sometimes succeed) to become a KOL. While this sort of status can be exciting for a neophyte who is thrilled to be ‘loved’ by many companies, the end result is likely to be disastrous for their careers in the long run.

Endorsing every product and trying to play it ‘safe’ can lead to a reputation as a sycophant or mouthpiece for involved companies. Although such behavior can put you on many podiums in the short haul, it is often short-lived celebrity.

Colleagues will see through sycophantic behavior, and while many companies and device manufacturers will applaud you for your unwavering support for their output, the downside is that your colleagues will stop listening, leaving your opinions unheard and valueless.

Many companies (especially those in the infomercial trade) refer to their ever-supportive speakers as ‘hired guns.’ It is a sad testament to our profession that this sort of relationship is very common.

It remains a truism that you must be true to yourself. Your reputation is one of your most prized possessions. It takes a lifetime to achieve and a moment to destroy. Words, written or spoken, can and will define you as a dermatologist over time and should be carefully considered before presentation.

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