Some Thoughts on Thought Leadership
Years ago, ‘thought leadership’ was a mysterious phrase that very few people knew, even in the world of entrepreneurship. It seemed to carry some kind of mythical connotation. Now, the term has become more mainstream and widespread – but how much clearer are we about its true meaning and its influence on business?
- What is Thought Leadership?
Thought leadership can mean many things. According to the Oxford Dictionary definition, thought leadership is “intellectual influence and innovative or pioneering thinking”.
Editor of Strategy & Business magazine, Joel Kurtzman, described it in more contemporary terms in 1994: “A thought leader is recognized by peers, customers and industry experts as someone who deeply understands the business they are in, the needs of their customers and the broader marketplace in which they operate. They have distinctively original ideas, unique points of view, and new insights.”
Wikipedia defines it as “an individual or firm that is recognized as an authority in a specialized field and whose expertise is sought and often rewarded.”
Forbes contributors, Russ Alan Prince and Bruce Rogers, say that a thought leader is, “an individual or firm that prospects, clients, referral sources, intermediaries and even competitors recognize as one of the foremost authorities in selected areas of specialization, resulting in its being the go-to individual or organization for said expertise.” They add that a thought leader is “an individual or firm that significantly profits from being recognized as such.”
- Breaking The Mould
I take a purist view – I believe the essence of thought leadership is creating new paths of thought that challenge traditional thinking. I see it as being in defiance of the old set of rules restricting your perspective within the bounds of ‘normality’ – or rather, the ordinary.
Thought leaders are not boxed in by a particular viewpoint. They have the ability to step outside our cultural programming to see a new world beyond the limits of previous paradigms. Thought leaders have freedom of thought to create new ideas that would be impossible if they had stayed within the confines of accepted thinking.
Thought leaders have a high level of self-belief that goes beyond the average entrepreneur, and it’s this belief that raises their awareness of infinite possibilities and helps them to see beyond the veil of mediocrity.
- Communicating Thoughts
You cannot be a thought leader without an audience, readership, or a following – and there are several benefits to communicating your innovative messages and ideas.
You can build your reputation and be acclaimed as a trusted advisor or expert in your field. Raising your profile through thought leadership articles, books, presentations, and events can benefit your business by building your brand, generating sales leads, promoting your services or products, and closing deals.
Business leaders crave thought leadership. B2B thought leadership marketing agency Grist surveyed FTSE 350 executives and found that 84% believe that good thought leadership content gives them added value. 79% said it was important to keep them updated about significant business issues; 76% said they used it to inform decision-making and to envision the future.
- Thought Leaders To Note
There are numerous examples of thought leaders with a wide range of attributes and areas of expertise, but each of them has made an impact on the world. Here are just a handful:
Gary Vaynerchuk is one to follow. Entrepreneur, New York Times best-selling author and speaker, he consistently delivers content and insights that expand my thinking, motivating me to succeed. He says, “The journey is everything” and “If you are good enough, no one is stopping you.” He has a strong, even aggressive approach and style that perhaps doesn’t suit the more sensitive of us, but he gets results!
Carson Tate is a productivity expert – for both work and home. She devised an individualised approach to productivity: “Work Smarter, Not Harder” and is a brilliant trainer and inspiration to professionals.
Seth Godin is a marketing guru whose concepts have reached way beyond marketing and into the wider working world. He is the writer of dozens of best-selling business and marketing books. An amazing speaker, encourager and motivator for all.
Brené Brown is famous for her bestselling books about the power of emotions like courage, shame, vulnerability, and empathy. Unique in her insights, her wealth of research and knowledge comes together for the workplace in her book “Dare to Lead”.
- Lead On
I encourage everyone – especially business leaders and people with expertise – to think outside the box, speak out and share their vision and ideas, and make things happen.
In order to be a thought leader, you have to be able to challenge the status quo and transcend it. You are, in essence, a rebel against normality and the way things have historically been done.
Without innovation, there is no progress.
Be brave and do things differently