It pays to become a thought leader in your industry.

Not everyone can do that, of course, but you'll reap benefits if you can.

Becoming a thought leader involves more than just achieving success in your field. You earn the accolade by coming up with a business idea, method or practice that goes viral--even sets a trend.

I've done this in my industry, the financial advisory field. I was the first to say that you shouldn't try to own your home outright--that you should instead carry a big, long mortgage and never pay it off. That statement was controversial because it contradicted the standard advice offered by financial planners. The resulting brouhaha established me as a thought leader. Later, I invented (not patented) a way for parents to save for an infant's retirement--the RIC-E Trust --and I was among the first financial advisors to eschew retail mutual funds in favor of exchange-traded funds. Most recently, I conceived the idea of an ETF focusing on exponential technologies and convinced BlackRock, the world's largest money manager, and Morningstar, perhaps the best known researcher in the fund world, to bring it to market.

You become a thought leader by telling people to think about ideas they didn't know they needed to think about.

How can you identify such ideas? Easy: Look at what everyone else is saying and decide if saying the opposite makes sense. You'd be surprised that it often does.

There's only one key point when offering commentary that's contrary to everyone else: Make sure you're right.

Becoming a thought leader will give you and your company wider exposure. It helps you network and find new customers, employees and business partners. Most importantly, you'll improve the world.

Don't be content with being a successful business leader. You should also strive for being a thought leader.