There are some buzzwords which will not go out of fashion in the business / corporate world. “THOUGHT LEADERSHIP” is one of them. When I first heard the word more than a decade ago at the start of my professional career, I was in “awe” as the word sounded important and impressive.
My first thoughts were “Don’t we all have a zillion thoughts zooming in our minds every single day, so what qualifies for thought leadership? How can anyone demonstrate leadership with their thoughts? Who decides that it is thought leadership? How does one demonstrate thought leadership?”
With time and experience, I found these answers. Today, “Thought Leadership” is an integral part of my professional responsibilities.
And here’s the thing|
1) It is still in vogue to be associated with this “T” word or / and have it in your professional resume
2) It is still important and impressive to an individual / organization
According to Wikipedia, the term ‘Thought Leadership’ was coined in 1994 by Joel Kurtzman, editor-in-chief of the Booz & Co magazine Strategy & Business, and used to designate interview subjects for that magazine who had business ideas which merited attention
“Thought Leadership is simply about becoming an authority on relevant topics by delivering the answers to the biggest questions on the minds of your target audience.” By Michael Brenner
I think Thought Leadership is many times about asking the RIGHT QUESTIONS too. In fact many times the questions are more important than the answers – as they get one to think and provide the direction for your strategy and plans.
“Thought leadership should be an entry point to a relationship. Thought leadership should intrigue, challenge, and inspire even people already familiar with a company. It should help start a relationship where none exists, and it should enhance existing relationships.” By Daniel Rasmus
I fully concur with this definition. The only thing is that very many times “Thought leadership” is incidental or accidental, and consequently so are the relationships which is possibly and probably not a good space / place to be in for any business.
According to a Forbes article,
“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.”
“A thought leader is an individual or firm that significantly profits from being recognized as such.”
I agree with this view. The most challenging part is to become a Thought Leader, or the big HOW? I’m not so sure if Thought Leadership always results (directly) in increased profitability. It can – provided it is marketed / positioned well, and reaches the right audience / reader.
Wikipedia says that “Thought leadership is often used as a way of increasing or creating demand for a product or service. High tech firms will often publish white papers with analysis of economic benefits of the product as a form of marketing”
Agreed! It is really about putting your voices and views in the marketplace and promoting it on multiple online / offline channels that your prospects view.
Why is Thought Leadership important today?
Simply because it is a competitive marketplace and every individual / organization has several thoughts on a periodic basis. Establishing “continuous leadership” on your thoughts is a direct testimonial to the kind of team that you have and a clear ‘market message’ that nurturing and sharing these thoughts is important to you / your team and your organization. Thought Leadership can sometimes be your one and only “key differentiators” in the GTM (Go-To-Market) Strategy. Hence it is imprative for organizations to build, nurture and demonstrate “Thought Leadership”
How to demonstrate Thought Leadership?
With your content. With you communications. With your conversations (online / offline)
Who should drive Thought Leadership?
The beauty of Thought Leadership is that it
Integrates with a SME (Subject Matter Expert)
Integrates with content and social media functions
Integrated with marketing functions
Integrated with Leadership
And so it really is a collective collaborative constructive responsibility of an individual / team / organization to showcase / demonstrate Thought Leadership over a period of time.
And lastly who determines it to be “Thought Leadership”?
This is a tricky one since it depends on who is the addressable market for your offerings / solutions / services / products and who is the (potential) target customer. What may be “Thought Leadership” to one may not be “Thought Leadership” to another. The point is that there should be an “industry / community / group” of experts who “publicly” ratify a thought as “Thought Leadership”…
Agree / Disagree? Leave a comment to let me know