There's plenty of philosophers out there. Most of them have “day jobs.” It’s hard to…
Thought leadership is powerful. Thought leadership is impactful. Thought leadership is also a widely misunderstood term that gets bounced around like a ping pong ball. I work exclusively with speakers, authors and thought leaders and I’ve learned a few things along the way. I’ll attempt to share a bit of that with you today.
First and foremost: never ever call yourself a thought leader. It works about as well as a promise from a used car salesman. The community that you serve can call you a thought leader. Your clients can. You can’t, it just makes you seem like a dolt.
Second, if you want to practice thought leadership you’ll need:
- Unique and original ideas
- To be a leader in your respective space.
Now the above are pretty high barriers. It isn’t easy, and it takes time, energy, commitment, and effort. There’s a reason they don’t call it “thoughtless followership.” Becoming a thought leader, being truly thoughtful, is not an easy task. The market is getting smarter every day; we can easily watch Ted talks, read HBR, take a MOOC, and download academic papers all day and night.
Ask yourself what about your work is truly thoughtful?
Is it a unique perspective to a complex problem?
A breakthrough way of thinking?
Is it the ease of application of your processes or models?
Marginal improvements to the status quo will no longer cut it in this age of thought leadership. If a potential client were to sarcastically ask, “So, what’s so thoughtful about your stuff?” How would you answer that without getting defensive? Three bullet points should suffice, try it.
Now there are many, many thoughtful people in the universe (and at least an equal amount of, shall we say less than thoughtful folks). What does it take for you to be a leader? It takes effort. There are no shortcuts. You need to understand what it entails and either agree to do so or decide not to.
There is no law or mandate that says, “Thou must be a thought leader.” It’s a choice.
However, if you choose this path, you should have the motivation to match your ambition, a clear set of goals, and a sound understanding of why you want this. It could be to get your content out there and make the world a better place, it could be to best serve your clients, it could be to make a good living, or even to make a ton of money. There are dozens of reasons and none of them are right or wrong—they’re just reasons.
Now here’s the kicker—should you choose to pursue being a thought leader, and if you do it well, it won’t be long before others start to refer to you as a thought leader. In the world of content and ideas, of knowledge workers—a world that craves innovation and creativity—there aren’t too many higher compliments that can be paid to you.