Thought Leadership

Thought Leader. Are you a Thought Leader?

Permit me to help you answer the question.

A Thought Leader is someone whose leadership includes thinking about new ways to do things. He or she does the things that leaders do—dealing with followers through the vision, goals, planning, communication, problem-solving, inspiration, and more. In addition to these, however, a Thought Leader takes on the challenge of thinking anew about a service, a method, an approach, an activity or action, and so on. The key words are two-fold—1) new and 2) thinking.

Don’t be intimidated. “New and thinking” can be big in scale or smaller and more modest in scale. You don’t have to bear the burden of rethinking gravity in order to be a Thought Leader. You just have to be involved in thinking about the new, thinking through the new, and thinking what ought to be new…and then drawing followers as well as other leaders to it. You don’t need to be a genius, a brainiac, or last week’s Jeopardy winner.

Thought Leadership is about invention, creation, and adaptation. Thought Leadership is about identifying a need and gap and finding something workable to fit and fill it effectively. As I referenced above, more often than not the thing found is something new or, at least, it ends up as new.

I’ll admit that Thought Leader is daunting. It’s a special niche of leadership. Not every leader is a Thought Leader. But don’t sell yourself short on this. You may be in a situation where the value most needed by your followers is for you to act as a Thought Leader.

I’ve worked with three clients on Thought Leadership in my coaching service, Creative Conversations. I’ve selected for them separately three leaders as examples of Thought Leaders—William T. Sherman, Theodore Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King Jr. Each of these leaders discovered that the status quo was lacking. Each of them spent time thinking about what could be done better. Each led followers to the new way of doing. By the way, I can envision many others as similar examples. Mother Teresa springs to mind.

Here are a few things I’ve found on the Rivers of Sherman, Roosevelt, and King as Thought Leaders:

  • A problem before the thought—each of these three leaders grappled with a problem before grappling with the thought required to address it.
  • More than time by itself—each took the time to reflect, ponder, study, and contemplate but they also were neck-deep in real-world, day-to-day fire-fighting.
  • The value of thought—each placed a premium on thinking and the results and effects it produced; they weren’t hesitant about or afraid of using their minds.

Sherman, Roosevelt, and King are only three of a countless set of Thought Leaders. Maybe you have someone else you regard as a Thought Leader. Whether you do or don’t, please understand that Thought Leadership is a unique form of leading and it may be more of an issue for your followers than you realize.

Thanks for reading.