What Is an Industry Leader? (And How To Become One)

Updated June 24, 2022

Being an industry leader means you or your organization are the most successful, innovative and recognizable among other professionals and companies in your industry. Knowing the characteristics of an industry leader can help you better establish a plan to work toward becoming on. In this article, we explore what an industry leader is, the types of industry leaders that exist, how to become an industry leader and the benefits of becoming

Related: Your Guide to Visionary Leadership

What is an industry leader?

An industry leader is an organization or single professional within a particular industry that is considered the most effective and impactful in that industry. Companies typically become industry leaders when they are the most recognizable among their competitors and have high sales numbers. Individuals typically become industry leaders when they lead an organization to market recognition and high sales as well as become known as an expert in business or that industry.

Characteristics of industry leaders

These are some of the characteristics of industry-leading companies and individuals:

  • Effective strategic planning and management

  • High sales

  • Loyal customers, client base or audience

  • Talented and satisfied employees

  • Innovation

  • Strong operational execution

Types of industry leaders

In addition to entire companies, here are some other types of industry leaders:

  • Founders: These individuals create and manage successful businesses, either in established or emerging markets. Their industry success can make them influential industry leaders in the market in terms of how they run their business and promote effective strategic planning.

  • Entrepreneurs: These individuals can become industry leaders after creating, securing funding for and selling successful businesses in one or many markets. Earning a living off of making a profit on ideas and selling to more major companies can establish them as leaders in their industry.

  • CEOs and other executives: Executive-level company leaders are in charge of assessing a company's operations, financial health, products or services and growth strategy. They can become industry leaders when they're able to transform a company in these areas and make it an industry leader.

How to become an industry leader

Follow some of these steps to pursue industry leadership:

1. Hire and retain top talent

When companies have highly skilled and experienced employees, they are better able to create the best products and services, provide excellent customer service and improve the company overall. The best ways to hire and retain top talent include:

  • Writing comprehensive job descriptions

  • Conducting in-depth interviews

  • Offering competitive salaries and benefits packages

  • Creating effective onboarding programs

  • Promoting continued education, certification and training

  • Creating a diverse and welcoming company culture

Hiring and retaining talented team members can also help individuals become industry leaders, too, when they're known for leading companies that respect and value their employees.

Related: 17 Successful Retention Strategies

2. Cultivate a positive reputation

Companies that have a positive reputation with their customers, employees and the public are better able to sell products or services, improve their market recognition and attract talented professionals. Individuals with a positive reputation among their colleagues and the public are better able to command the respect of an industry leader.

Some ways to cultivate a positive reputation include:

  • Taking part in charity and community organization events

  • Supporting and donating to charitable organizations

  • Showing respect to people and communities of different backgrounds

3. Lead the local market

One of the first steps in becoming an industry-leading company is to become a leader in the local market, such as one region's market of industry or one small part of total industry, like of a specific product or service. Companies can become well known for providing certain products or services to one region or country, or they can even be one region's provider for a popular product or service.

Ways to begin leading a local market include:

  • Identifying and supplying a regional need that hasn't been addressed at all or properly

  • Developing better industry-specific products or services than are available in a region's market

  • Cultivating a positive reputation in this smaller market with great customer service

4. Innovate products, services and approaches to business

Being an industry leader requires businesses to innovate how they make their products or services and what they offer in products and services. They also find new ways to solve customer problems through unique product and service offerings that haven't been offered before. This kind of innovation helps a businesses stay ahead of their competitors and become necessary to consumers.

Industry-leading companies and individuals are also keen on innovating the way they manage teams and businesses as a whole. They may take a different approach to hiring, training or creating company culture that yields better results. Or, they may take risks, pursue new goals and apply strategies that may yield significantly better results.

5. Develop educational materials

Both companies and individuals can publish educational materials that teach the public, professionals in the market or their consumers about a company, market, product or service, industry trend or process or other relevant topics. Some ways to create and publish educational materials include:

  • Publishing a blog

  • Creating a collection of white papers and articles

  • Making educational videos

  • Developing an educational workshop or e-book

  • Writing research reports and case studies

Offering knowledge to others allows companies and individuals to better establish themselves as experts in the field, showcase how they've helped clients or customers, improve their ranking in search results and begin promoting themselves as thought leaders.

Related: The Purpose of a Blog for Your Brand

6. Attend industry events

Some industry events a company or individual can attend include:

  • Conferences

  • Trade shows and conventions

  • Workshops

  • Networking events

  • Awards and recognition events

  • Charity or fundraising events

Companies can send representatives, like executives, founders and top leaders to give presentations or speak on panels, as well as sales and marketing team members to operate the vendor table, provide information and secure leads. Individuals looking to become industry leaders can attend these events on their own to host workshops, give presentations or speeches and participate on panels.

7. Become a thought leader and expert

Here are some ways to become a thought leader as an individual and as a company:

  • Speak or present at industry conferences

  • Host a workshop on your approach to leadership or business in the industry

  • Volunteer or serve community organizations

  • Have an active social media presence

  • Write a blog or for industry publications

Related: What Is a Thought Leader? How To Become a Thought Leader

8. Receive awards and recognitions

When an organization or professional excels in the industry, they may be eligible to win awards and recognitions for their hard work, expertise and leadership. Many industry-specific and general business organizations award companies and leaders for excellence in many categories, and many companies recognize team members for excellence in the workplace. Some awards and recognitions they can get include:

  • Employee of the month or year

  • Manager of the month or year

  • Best company in the industry

  • Highest sales in the industry

  • Highest customer satisfaction

  • Consumers' choice

  • Best employer or most satisfied employees

  • Innovation awards

  • Best product

Companies can showcase these accolades on their website, in marketing materials and through press releases. Individuals can display these accolades on their personal website, professional social media profiles and resume or CV. Having any of these awards or recognitions demonstrates a company's or individual's strengths, dedication and accomplishments. These can help companies establish themselves as better options than their competitors, and individuals can use these recognitions to stand out among candidates and colleagues.

9. Be in the top search results

When an organization's or individual's website, social media or thought leadership articles appear in top search engine results, they are more likely to have a large audience and an easier time finding new customers or clients. Some ways to get a company or professional in the top search engine results include:

  • Having an accessible and attractive website

  • Publishing a blog or videos

  • Using best SEO practices on the website, blog and social media

Benefits of becoming an industry leader

If a company become a leader in the industry, its leaders can expect some of these benefits:

  • More bargaining power: Companies can have more leverage to negotiate lower prices for supplies and materials from suppliers, vendors and shipping organizations.

  • Weaker competition: When a company is considered an industry leader, their competitors are less likely to out-sell them or take their consumers.

  • Fewer competitors: Companies that are industry leaders typically take up the majority of the market, leaving less room for current competitors to grow or new competitors to enter the market.

  • Strong brand recognition: Consumers are more likey to recognize industry-leading companies because of their widespread marketing and positive reputation.

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