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On thought leadership

04-Sep-2017

On thought leadership

One of our passions is to encourage people to think - in fact, we help people understand what holds them back and how to overcome the "blocks" - and help them to become creative thinkers.

That led us to the question, "Do we want our thoughts to be led by others?"

There is a lot written about "thought leadership", so let's pause to ponder what it actually means - and maybe be a little provocative - surely not!

If you look for a definition of leadership, you might find comments like, "The ability to lead" or, "The function or position of a leader".

If you look up leader, you can find examples like, "A person that leads" or, "A guiding or directing head".

Maybe that's why there are still so many opportunities for the "gurus" to write endlessly about leadership and what it means - or, maybe, write about the latest management consultants' bandwagon?

Being a "thought leader" seems to be something to which people (and even organisations, bizarrely) aspire. We won't think about organisations (as opposed to the people in them) thinking - we don't want to get into AI - and that would be the "technology" and not the organisation "thinking", anyway!

If leadership warrants such voluminous writing, then we should also consider "thought leadership"? What is it?

We came across one definition, "Thought Leadership is one of the outcomes of a solid Content Strategy" - aha, now all is clear? Maybe another, "Becoming an authority on relevant topics by delivering the answers to the biggest questions on the minds of your target audience" makes the former a little less opaque?

These seem to suggest that thought leadership is simply a marketing and PR tool or strategy - or, at least, part thereof.

... thought leadership is simply a marketing and PR tool or strategy ...

Wikipedia (!!) says, "It is seen as a way of increasing or creating demand for a product or service".

"A thought leader is an individual or firm (sic) that is recognized as an authority in a specialized field and whose expertise is sought and often rewarded." Maybe that's getting closer to what people are seeking?

However, what are people seeking? Someone to lead their thoughts (whatever that means)? Someone to tell them what to think or do? Someone to direct their thoughts? Someone to give them opinions?

Surely, a vital part of leadership is encouraging, recognising and rewarding people for their own thoughts, innovations, ideas and so on?

Even Wikepedia says, "... the idea of thought leadership is seen to be inherently contradictory. Since the Enlightenment, thinking has been taken to an autonomous activity, relying on logic and not on external authority".

So, do we want to lead people's thoughts? No! We'd much rather encourage them to think for themselves, to stimulate discussion, collaboration and the free exchange of ideas.

In fact, we strongly believe in actively encouraging people to think - and to develop and practise critical thinking skills. We do not believe in leading their thoughts.

Maybe it's all semantics, but surely our meaning and intent is all part of effective communications (another of our specialist areas!), so maybe we should be thoughtful about how we talk about important things?

What do you think? You could always ask someone for some thought leadership to help you think and decide? [LOL]


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