WHAT IS A THOUGHT LEADER (and is it YOU?)
What is a Thought Leader? Lately I’ve had clients discussing this topic with me and wondering what my take was on the term. So, I decided to do some research on the subject and see what others had to say about it.
According to Wikipedia, Thought Leaders are used to describe a “futurist or person who is recognized among peers and mentors for innovative ideas and demonstrates the confidence to promote or share those ideas as actionable distilled insights (thinklets)”.
I have dozens of clients who are thought leaders—organic thinkers, consistently offering ideas that propel businesses forward—and have crafted résumés to position them as such. Thought leadership isn’t anything new—it’s been around for years and years, but the term has grown in popularity the past 5 years or so.
I remember back in the 70’s and 80’s when my Dad worked in sales for IBM, he had a block sign that was at his desk at work—which he later brought home and sat on his dresser—that simply said, “THINK”. It intrigued the heck out of me and I would ask him, “Think about WHAT?” As I later came to understand it, it was IBM’s slogan for (among other things) developing the top technical and sales teams in the industry by thinking ‘outside the box’—being unique “expert” leaders of their product or service.
Just as it was back then, thought leaders of today are being recruited to work within huge organizations to promulgate an idea and teach this learning to others. It’s going beyond ‘business as usual’ and setting yourself apart as an innovative leader and establishing your organization as a trusted advisor and knowledge resource.
The best part, according to Galen DeYoung’s article, “B2B Blogging: Using Thought Leadership to Drive Positioning & Sales”, is thought leaders are sought after and paid more. They are “perceived experts that companies want to hire. In going with an expert, the perceived risk is lower”.
I also like what Execunet’s founder, Dave Opton had to say about it in his “Keys to Influence” post of why leaders of any enterprise continually succeed (it’s the attitude… and people trust the confidence)…“I can’t prove it, but this is what I believe…”
I have had clients ask me if I would consider them a “thought leader” due to their contributions and if it is worthwhile to brand themselves as such. Do your career accomplishments include a history of pioneering new products or processes, or promoting or discussing ideas relevant to departments and/or companies? Are you singled out for your innovation and expertise in a certain subject? Have you been told you “think outside the box” or you are a “change agent”? If you answered “Yes” to any of those, then you have your answer. Brand yourself on your résumé and look for new opportunities within that realm. Have fun!