What is a Thought Leader?

It seems that everywhere you turn these days you run into people who call themselves Thought Leaders. Or they boast that others call them Thought leaders. I wonder what is the value of all these Thought Leaders? Are these people really thinking? If everyone is leading, are there any followers?

Whether you claim the mantle Thought Leader, or avidly seek out Thought Leaders,  you have the obligation to explore yours or their thoughts.

  • Are they creative, innovative, inspirational?
  • Are they original, not derivative?
  • Do they energize people who have not been energized before?
  • Do they make people throw their long-held attitudes and beliefs out the window?
  • Do their thoughts lead to concrete actions that generate results?
  • What’s the outcome of a thought leader’s thoughts?

Or is being regarded as a Thought Leader about successful marketing, not an indicator of achievements?

I’ve sat in audiences listening to Thought Leaders speak and afterwards asked my fellow attendees what exactly would they do differently after having listened. Many rave about ideas, almost no one commits to any action. One time, about 7 years ago, a woman in an audience told me she would step far outside her comfort zone and work with a videographer to produce 10 promotional videos. I coached her so I know she did it. That’s one out of hundreds! Without action, nothing changes.

When you think about leaders, what comes to mind?

  • People who embody the leadership position they proclaim they have?
  • People who inspire others to be better than their typical selves?
  • To achieve beyond what they think is possible?
  • To work with others in pursuit of a common, important goal?
  • To take responsibility for the outcome and accept criticism as well as praise?

If you wrap yourself in the cloak of Thought Leader, or you are a Thought Leader seeker, how strongly does the leadership part stand out?

One frequent comment I hear from people in thrall to Thought Leaders is that they are afraid of missing out on the latest and greatest. They use the label Thought Leader to select what they read and listen to, and what events they attend. Yet after a year of following Thought Leaders, they can’t point to outcomes they achieved because of something one or more thought leaders said or did. Collecting Thought Leaders makes them feel good, but doesn’t help them take action.

Smart business owners who search instead for useful ideas that, when adopted, will make a difference to achieving an outcome, make so much more progress towards their goal. They dive deep into the methods and philosophies of one or two people who have achieved tangible business success rather than marketing success.

 “Susan shares ideas I’m familiar with and helps me take action, every single day. The changes in just two months are astounding.” President and CEO, IT services firm

Is this the moment for you to take action and seek outcomes, not thought leaders? Your business will be the better for it.

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