What Is A Thought Leader?

The following article, entitled  “What Is A Thought Leader?” is taken from FORBES LEADERSHIP section. 

I thought it  might be interesting and educational to debate its content and I therefore hope you will feel free to comment on it. Personally I do not agree with many of the points it makes, but I’d rather not post my views yet as I do not want to influence the debate. 

“What Is A Thought Leader?” 

It’s a truism that thought leaders tend to be the most successful individuals or firms in their respective fields. Furthermore, in the research literature, there’s a general consensus that being a thought leader whether you’re an individual or employed at an organization and you want to grow the business, or even an association seeking new members as well as more generous sponsors, being a thought leader can make a very significant and positive difference.

When you think of the term thought leader, what comes to mind? With all the definitional dispersion around the phrase, as a starting point it’s usually very worthwhile to define just what a thought leader is and, sometimes more importantly, what a thought leader is not.

What we’ve found is that some people take a very expansive view of the term, wrapping internal strategy and corporate culture into their definition. Other individuals are more constrained in their definition. Bluntly, there are many definitions of the term.

The way we conceptualize and define thought leadership highlights and emphasizes the potential exponential rewards of being a thought leader. In fact, that it’s the exponential rewards that is very much the focal point of our thinking and consulting in the field. From our perspective, no one can possibly be a thought leader unless they’re capitalizing on the dramatically enhanced brand equity attained by being a thought leader.

Based on decades of working with professionals, their firms and other types of organizations, we have a two-part definition of what constitutes a thought leader:

Definition—Part One

A thought leader is an individual or firm that prospects, clients, referral sources, intermediaries and even competitors recognize as one of the foremost authorities in selected areas of specialization, resulting in its being the go-to individual or organization for said expertise.

Considering the title of this column, what we’re talking about in Part One of the definition is “brilliance.” What’s essential to understand is that brilliance doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and it’s a total waste of time to debate whether it’s authentic or not. Brilliance is a function of acclaim, created where others bestow the accolades. We now move to the second part of the definition, the commercial component:

Definition—Part Two

A thought leader is an individual or firm that significantly profits from being recognized as such.

People are in businesses to make money. By and large, their objective whether through products, services or both is to do a top-notch job for their clients. Still, it’s fair to say, they want to be well compensated to the extent possible. Being a thought leader is very much about making money, which is also evidenced in the title for this column.

Let’s consider a tax accounting firm that wants to become a thought leader. A new law comes out that will have a dramatic effect on how to address the depreciation of certain corporate assets. For the tax accounting firm to appear as a thought leader, the tax partners have to do a lot more than merely regurgitate the new law. However, in most situations with professionals, simply repeating the basics tends to be the norm.

To become a thought leader, the tax accounting firm needs to do a deep dive concerning the new law. The partners must determine just how the law will impact various companies. Furthermore, the tax accountants must develop distinctive insights and actionable planning strategies based on the new law. There have to be recommendations attached to the analysis that can prove beneficial to the impacted companies. It’s of critical importance that the tax accounting firm communicates that it’s the go-to expert concerning these distinctive insights and actionable strategies. As the go-to expert, the accounting firm will have structured the means to more effectively garner new clients and do more business with current clients with the result being a larger bottom-line. Being selectively renowned can be very rewarding, but being wealthy as well is immensely better.

For any individual or any organization to be a thought leader it’s especially critical that they monetize their state-of-the-art thinking by increasing their ability to source, work with and profit from their target markets. In effect, being a thought leader absolutely includes the ability to garner radically above-average returns for the investment and effort. Becoming a thought leader is about making money and making history.

Source article written 16 March 2012 @ 9:49AM
http://www.forbes.com/sites/russprince/2012/03/16/what-is-a-thought-leader/

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About Carole Brown

I come to the arena of leadership and transformation from my early days a physiologist and from my second career as a change management consultant and learning coach. My enduring love of biology and my curiosity about energy and life, attract me to many different spheres of knowledge and wisdom. One is "Resonance Repatterning", an energetic approach to transforming our patterns and moving beyond the blocks that keep us from reaching our highest self. I first studied RR in 2000. I am hoping that we humans have now evolved to a place where we can embrace evolutionary approaches to change and growth, in order that we as people, organisations, and communities can live in harmony with ourselves and with our precious planet.
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One Response to What Is A Thought Leader?

  1. As depicted above, a thought leader operates at the center and is the focal point of an organization. This assumption has been questioned by an ancient Taoist writer, who claims that a true leader leads by getting out of the way, rather than pushing a strategy (see http://www.thewordenreport.blogspot.com/2013/04/taoist-leadership.html). It seems to me that such a perspective is useful in that it can get us to question fundamental or basic assumptions that we take for granted. In this regard, I hope my comment is useful.

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