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In Defense of Thought Leadership

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Trevor Cook and David Murray skewer the term “thought leadership” on their respective blogs. I agree with both of their arguments to a point.

Many people and company’s do use the term, “thought leader,” in a contrived and meaningless manner. That being said, I completely disagree with the definition of thought leadership as presented by Cook and Murray.

First of all, thought leaders don’t refer to themselves as thought leaders. For the same reason, I think it is silly that many marketers are trying to setup blogs because their bosses told them so. Uh, that’s not the point.

It’s a conversation – a dialog. When I started marketing and selling to executives, a friend gave me this simple advice that’s served me my entire career, “just be people with people.” In other words, be real, be authentic and put your whole self into what you do. That’s the essence of blogging. Okay back on track…

So what is a thought leader?

A thought leader is a recognized authority in one’s field. Elise Bauer wrote an article on thought leadership that I referenced a while back.

Bauer writes, “What differentiates a thought leader from any other knowledgeable company is the recognition from the outside world that the company deeply understands its business, the needs of its customers, and the broader marketplace in which it operates.” She continues, “Trust is built on reputation and reputation is generally NOT built on advertising or looking smart.”

People have a natural “BS” meter. We can sense when someone is just trying to sound smart or recognize a charlatan who pontificates about their expertise. It just a shallow attempt to edify themselves.

Thought leadership is not what you say. It is a way of being. There are just a select few thought leaders in every industry and field of study. Thought leaders genuinely influence others by creating, advancing and sharing ideas to help others.

In business, thought leaders revolutionize the way others (both inside and outside their company’s) do business. That’s thought leadership.

Bauer concludes, “Become a thought leader in your field and it won’t matter as much how big you are. Companies and people will look to you for insight and vision. Journalists will quote you, analysts will call you, and websites will link to you.”

So it is a really an outside assessment of what others say about you and what they do as a result of your ideas.

Is the word thought leadership the problem? No way. I rather like it. The term itself is just being abused by a few as a hollow form of self promotion.

Brian Carroll is the CEO of InTouch Inc. InTouch is a 50-person company focused on delivering effective lead generation solutions for “the complex sale.”

Brian authors the very interesting B2B Lead Generation Blog which focuses on B2B lead generation, sales leads, and marketing for the complex sale.

In Defense of Thought Leadership
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  • Yumi Yvonne Corilla Orias

    Nice articles. Thanks for sharing this. Even as leaders, we need to make allowances for things sometimes, especially things that are beyond our control. An important thing that is included in most leadership coaching programs is that leaders should work within the limitations they face, but at the same time try for optimum productivity. Want to be a leader? Check this articles about leadership manuals at pptse.net for more details.

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