I somehow managed until a few months ago to be blissfully ignorant of the term “thought leader.” Now I’m reading it or hearing it non-stop. Wikipedia defines thought leadership as “business jargon for an entity that is recognized for having innovative ideas.” When I first heard it I thought “who are these thought leaders, and who determined that they reached that lofty threshold?” I posted on Facebook awhile back “I wonder if I’ll ever be considered a thought leader…” I found the term a bit pretentious, yet people seemed to be pursuing a title of “thought leader” as a badge of honor, and in some cases it seemed they were trying to pretend they were one even if they really weren’t. I even found instructions on how to become a thought leader in six steps.
Am I a thought leader? I think I have moments of insight, and I’m practical and down to earth. Am I a visionary? Most of the time I don’t feel like one, I’m just working hard and doing what needs to be done. Does that mean you’re all wasting your time reading my blog or following me on Twitter? I hope not – some of you say you’ve found value in the blog.
I applauded when I saw an article called “Let’s Turn Down This Thought Leadership Pressure Cooker!” The author, Linda Dessau, makes the point that our readers aren’t always looking for something innovative, and may get more value from something practical and concrete that will help them solve a problem. That’s me – practical and concrete, trying to solve practical and concrete daily problems for my readers and the people I work for. If I’m never a thought leader, or win awards for the amount of clout I have, that’s OK. If something I do or write is the practical piece of advice that someone needs, I’ve had a good day.
I like the definition of thought leadership given by Craig Badings of thoughtleadershipstrategy.net, who defines thought leadership as follows: “Thought Leadership is establishing a relationship with and delivering something of value to your stakeholders and customers that aligns with your brand/company value.” That, to me, is something to work toward, much more so than having hundreds of Twitter followers hanging on my every word.