The Mettacomms platform allows you to identify thought leaders, so I thought we might look at what constitutes a thought leader. There are lots of definitions, multiple opinions and some ‘expert’ commentary. All have a different take on what it actually is. So, let’s get some clarity around the issue.
Thought leadership does what it says on the tin.
In the first instance, it is about thought. Wikipedia defines thought as a “conscious cognitive process that can happen independently of sensory stimulation”. To be a thought leader you must be well read in your chosen topic. You must be open to new, diverse and utterly different ideas than your own. You must understand the history of the area you are leading in, and you must have thought about the implications of taking different approaches to your topic. In terms of your ‘thinking’ you must read what other experts have to say about your topic, you need to listen widely to views and not just hear what is being said in your own echo-chamber. You should seek out a diversity of opinion – diverse ages, cultural backgrounds, societal influences, geographic locations, educational backgrounds, lived experiences etc. Your thoughts must be informed by opinions that you heartily agree with and utterly, diametrically oppose. But you must have heard them to help form your opinion.
And then, there’s the leadership piece. Mary K. Pratt says that leadership, in part, is about “articulating a clear vision.” To lead you must have a vision. You don’t have to be right – what a dull world that would be if all of our leaders were right all of the time – but you must know why you hold a particular view, and you must be utterly sincere and committed to the vision you are articulating. Of course, you can change your opinion – just as passionately as you held the first opinion – but you must be able to reason it to yourself and others.
A thought leader is someone who is passionate about their subject, has a deep interest in it, reads voraciously, listens widely, debates copiously – and wants to share their vision with you.
I want to listen – because, whether they are right or wrong, they will inform me, offer insights I hadn’t been aware of, and make me think about the issue in a new way. That’s a thought leader.
Mary K. Pratt: https://www.techtarget.com/searchcio/definition/leadership