Learning from the best: 8 exemplary financial thought leaders

Seeking inspiration? Look no further than these 8 financial authorities, who I think are among the best thought leaders in the industry. While most of us will never be able to duplicate their reach and notoriety, we can all glean a lesson or two from their practices. It’s also true that many of these people would likely be famous based purely on their investment performance or business success—but each guru has taken it to the next level by actively curating their thought leadership platforms.

Here are my top 8, in no particular order:

1. Bill Gross, Portfolio Manager, Janus Henderson

Known for: Getting personal (and a little eccentric) in his monthly investment outlooks. First at PIMCO and now at Janus, Gross is never afraid to write colorfully, covering everything from his wife’s golf game to bizarre philosophical brainteasers.

Lessons learned: Don’t bury your voice; personal narratives can have a place in financial writing.

2. Jeffrey Gundlach, Chief Investment Officer and Chief Executive Officer, DoubleLine

Known for: Making bold predictions. There’s no lack of conviction when Gundlach stakes a stand, whether he’s tweeting that there’s no way to win in high-yield credit or predicting a negative return for the S&P 500 in 2018.

Lessons learned: Say what you mean with confidence and skip the soft-pedaling. Gundlach has also proven that webcasts can be a great medium for thought leadership: Every time he hosts one, the media (and his competitors) take note.

3. Ray Dalio, Co-Chairman and Co-Chief Investment Officer, Bridgewater Associates

Known for: Discussing his corporate management philosophy—Dalio doesn’t confine his commentaries to stocks and bonds.

Lessons learned: Broaden your boundaries; be open to a variety of topics. If you have a view on something, explore it, even if it’s outside of your primary wheelhouse.

4. Byron Wien, Vice Chairman and senior adviser, Blackstone

Known for: Publishing ten surprises each year and organizing summer lunches to actively seek and share outside opinions from various industries.

Lessons learned: Consider a cornerstone publication to build a regular following and don’t be afraid to bring other opinions to the table. Additionally, Wien leaves his ego at the door and offers up a fair year-end critique of his own predictions.

5. Sallie Krawcheck, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Ellevest and Ellevate Network

Known for: Savvy use of social media to promote her mission. Krawcheck has nearly 2.2 million followers on LinkedIn and 54,100 on Twitter.

Lessons learned: Get comfortable talking about your mission and harness the power of social media to promote your views. If you’re wondering what a killer LinkedIn op-ed article looks like, take note of how Krawcheck writes—there’s a reason she’s been selected to be a LinkedIn Influencer.

6. Mary Meeker, General Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

Known for: Publishing her annual Internet Trends Report, which has been coined “the most anticipated slide deck of the year.” Meeker presents the report live at a major tech conference.

Lessons learned: Another great example of a cornerstone thought leadership publication. Savvy thinkers learn how to boost their profiles by delivering great content at conferences and other live events.

7. Liz Ann Sonders, Senior Vice President, Chief Investment Strategist, Charles Schwab

Known for: Analyzing and interpreting the economy and markets for the individual investor—without watering it down to a kindergarten level. Sonders is also an active Twitter user with 50,000+ followers.

Lessons learned: You don’t have to be 100% original on Twitter; it’s ok to retweet other experts. Sonders’ feed is full of retweets and, in my view, that doesn’t diminish the quality of her feed—it actually enhances it. She’s also not afraid to inject a little humor, for example, retweeting a clip of Ellen DeGeneres explaining bitcoin.

8. Jeremy Grantham, Co-founder and Chief Investment Strategist, Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo & Co (GMO)

Known for: Spotting market bubbles and publshing long, detailed analysis.

Lessons learned: There’s no two ways about it—Grantham’s content is dense. It’s not “snackable” by any means but it has a serious, dedicated following. If you’re an investment genius who is most comfortable writing lengthy, academic papers, then maybe you should embrace it. (Plus, longer content is all the rage in SEO these days.) Your work might not appeal widely, but it might be perfect for small a audience of readers who could become brand evangelists.