Although many refer to themselves as industry thought leaders, few understand what a thought leader represents. By leading, true thought leaders initiate new ideas and strategies that others follow and eventually becomes the new normal.
True thought leadership
There is a lot of value in disseminating best practices and strategies, it is what 90 percent of my blog posts do, but that does not constitute though leadership. Leadership is introducing new ways of looking at problems or executing. Reid Hoffman’s ideas on building an alliance between employees and employers instead of the traditional model of long-term employment is thought leadership. Google’s implementation of a multi-armed bandit approach to replace AB testing is thought leadership. Reed Hastings’ decision to rent DVDs by mail subscription instead of through stores was thought leadership.
How do you become a thought leader
To become a thought leader, you must not only repeat what others are saying but also think outside of the box. As The Economist authors wrote in their article “Philosopher kings”, “the only way to become a real thought leader is to ignore all this noise and listen to a few great thinkers.” The article goes on to recommend reading Confucius or Kierkegaard or Nietzsche to become a thought leader (and yes, I am not a thought leader in writing this while The Economist is). By looking at the most influential philosophers in history, you open your mind to generating big ideas and not simply copying the flavor of the day.
- Thought leadership is not repeating the ideas of others but creating concepts that then become the new normal.
- Among the true thought leaders in the tech space are Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn with his ideas on the employee-employer relationship and Reed Hastings who transformed DVD rentals.
- To develop thought leadership ability yourself, study the great thinkers.