What do thought leaders do? Obviously, they have interesting thoughts that cause others to think, most often, differently than they have thought before. Have you ever seen thinking on a job description? But it isn't even necessary that they be the first to have the thought (Xerox was working on usability long before Apple). Just that they communicate it in ways that others can understand and think about it, or implement it in ways ways that are successful. Most weren't successful on their first try, or with there first attempt to communicate their thoughts. They kept trying over and over (Edison is reported to have tried thousands of times before he came up with the right wire for the light bulb.).
I don't know many thought leaders that set out to be "thought leaders". Some of them got there accidentally. They weren't always happy accidents, some of them were very sad. Sometimes they just had a really good idea and kept working at it, sometimes for many years before they were acknowledged.
There are three things common to all of them though:
Just a thought.