What is Thought Leadership?

What is thought leadership anyway? Let’s start with what it’s not…

I was on the phone with an acquaintance yesterday talking excitedly about my favorite topic — thought leadership — when she stopped me in my tracks with a simple question. What is thought leadership?

Taking a lesson from Kevin Kruse’s popular blog post, let’s start with what it’s not.

The Medium Is Not the Message: Thought Leadership is not a blog post or a Twitter feed or a Facebook group. It is not a white paper or an eBook. It is not even a published book from the very best publishing house or an audience at TED or BIF or SXSW. The medium is not the point. The message is the point.

Not All Experts Are Thought Leaders: Just because you have a degree from a top university, you’re CEO of a company or you are certified to teach a certain topic doesn’t make you a thought leader.

It’s Not About Age or Even Gravitas: Thought leaders come in all sizes, shapes and packages. They don’t all have grey hair or 20 years of experience.

Definition: Thought Leaders move and inspire others with innovative ideas, turn those ideas into reality, then create a dedicated group of friends, fans and followers to help them replicate and scale those ideas into sustainable change.

Some thought leaders start an initiative, program, company or movement. Others convene or lead an advisory committee, task force or industry professional association. Some develop a product, platform, service or training model. Others push for new legislation or modifications to existing regulations. Many create or put into practice their own framework or methodology and share it widely.

Regardless of the form of their engagement, they do not pontificate on what needs to be done; they actively engage in bringing to life new first-of-their-kind projects, programs and creative initiatives. It is those actions that influence and inspire others to get on board.

Getting others on board is critical. A thought leader is defined by her or his ability to galvanize others to think new thoughts, modify how they have always done things, and engage in new behaviors, on new paths and in action to transform the world.

Why Be a Thought Leader?

  • You will increase your strategic visibility – visibility and standing with the people who matter.
  • You will be a rainmaker who attracts customers for your products, clients for your services, partners for your companies, followership for your blog, readership for your books, and funders for a project you have underway.
  • You will gain exposure for your ideas and access to people who can help you make things happen.
  • As a recognized thought leader you will have the power to persuade, the statusand authority to move things in a new direction, and the clout to implement real progress and widespread innovation.

Thought leadership is not about being known, it is about being known for making a difference.

What do you want to be known for?

Note: This post first appeared as a guest post on Kevin Kruse’s blog.

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